It's easy to write Lakers game stories. There's practically a template for them these days.
The Lakers lose again blah blah blah. Kobe Bryant was honored by the crowd but missed a lot of shots blah blah blah. Byron Scott was annoyed with a bad defensive effort blah blah blah. One (or maybe two) of the young guys played well.
Substitute “Bryant sat out another home game” in the above mishmash and you had the outline for Friday's 112-95 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Lakers (11-49) dropped their eighth game in a row and are tiptoeing around the franchise record for consecutive losses (10). It was initially set in 1993-94 and tied in January.
“This is pain,” said the grimacing third-row fan as he leaned toward a working area for journalists and Lakers publicists at Staples Center. The Lakers trailed at the time, 100-75.
There were still nine minutes remaining.
The glum-looking Lakers bench said it all in the final minutes. Russell sat at the end by himself, a towel over his head. Randle stared down at the court for quite a while. Nick Young (six points) also had a towel over his head.
In his fourth game as a starter, Russell did a fine job driving past people and getting to the free-throw line.
“I have more freedom and a longer leash to mess up,” Russell said, adding this was significantly better than earlier in the season. “I wasn't playing the type of basketball that I was capable of playing because I knew I was coming out for every, like, mistake. Now it's, like, cool.”
The Lakers installed a new offense Friday in which Russell surrendered the ball more quickly up top but got it back fairly quickly too. It worked well for him but there wasn't much progress from other Lakers youths.
Jordan Clarkson missed 12 of 16 shots and rookie Anthony Brown had five points in 32 minutes while starting in Bryant's spot. Larry Nance Jr. had two points.
Bryant sat out because of what the team called a sore right shoulder.
Statistics would show he sat out because it was a home game. There are lots of them left — 15 to be precise — but precious few road games where he will be honored for making his “last stop” through that particular city.
Since announcing his retirement, Bryant has played 14 of 21 games (66.7%) at Staples Center and 23 of 24 games (95.8%) away from the arena. He sat out a road game against Oklahoma City with the knowledge the Lakers would play there again in April.
“I know his obligation as far as to the fans here at home and also to fans on the road that are going to see him for the very last time. I do kind of look at it where he might take a couple of those [home] games off,” Scott said before alluding to games next month in Denver, Utah and Phoenix. “But when we hit the road … I'm pretty sure in his mind those are three games he doesn't want to miss.”
Whether Bryant plays doesn't really affect the Lakers. They're 2-6 without him since his announcement and a slightly worse 7-30 with him.
Either way, it's a lot of losing.