SAN ANTONIO — Finally.
The Lakers crawled past the finish line Wednesday, kissing goodbye to the 2013-14 season (without any further injuries) in a 113-100 victory over the half-interested San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center.
After a series of record-setting lows, the most important date for the Lakers becomes May 20, the night of the NBA draft lottery. They have a 6.3% chance of landing the top overall draft pick after finishing with the NBA's sixth-worst record.
While the Lakers (27-55) played their season finale, Kobe Bryant was already beginning his off-season, leaving for France either Tuesday or early Wednesday with family members, The Times learned.
A team spokesman said he was unaware of the situation and referred a reporter to Bryant's agent, Rob Pelinka, who could not be reached for comment.
Bryant later sent a tweet from overseas, saying how bad this season was: "Flush it. Forget it #amnesia Next Season will be epic." He added hashtags with the word "blackout," a reference to his famously difficult workouts, and "bussfam," a supportive nod, if not nudge, to the Buss family.
Bryant had been in a surly mood since the Lakers' fortunes started sagging, muttering under his breath at last month's team photo session that he didn't like associating with a group so many games under .500.
The Lakers had never lost this many games in a season and were out of playoff contention for a month.
Bryant, 35, has not played since sustaining a fractured knee in December. He appeared in only six games this season, missing the first 19 while recovering from a torn Achilles' tendon.
He made $30.5 million this season and signed a contract extension for another two years and $48.5 million.
Bryant was supposed to address Lakers fans before the team's home finale Sunday but showed up at Staples Center near halftime because of a migraine, a Lakers spokesman said. Instead of Bryant, Nick Young grabbed a microphone before tipoff against Memphis and called Lakers fans "the best in the world."
The Lakers found so many new depths, it was hard to catalog them.
They had never lost so many games at home, going a meek 14-27 in front of bored Staples Center crowds.
Their 48-point loss to the Clippers last month was their largest ever to anybody. They set team records for largest losses to San Antonio (34 points) and, yes, Minnesota (36 points).
A stat indicative of their defenseless season: They had their worst three-game defensive stretch in team history, surrendering an average of 136 points in March losses to the Clippers, Oklahoma City and Denver.
They were swept by Milwaukee, the league's worst team, their national TV games were dumped three times by ESPN or TNT and they had nine non-sellouts at Staples Center.
Oh, and their ratings on Time Warner Cable SportsNet dropped 54% from last season.
Oddly, the Lakers set a team record for most points in a quarter (51 in the third against New York last month) and had a handful of unexpected highs — beating the Clippers on opening night, winning at Houston and Portland, and surprising Oklahoma City on a day in which Jodie Meeks outscored Kevin Durant, 42-27.
But the losses outweighed everything.
"Before the season, everybody said we would have a good shot at making the playoffs if Kobe came back, if Steve Nash came back, if Pau [Gasol] played at a big level and we developed a couple guys," Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Well, we developed a couple guys and Pau had a good year, but the other two guys didn't come back. That was a big part of it. Things had to go right and didn't."
The Lakers lost 315 man-games to injury this season, led by Bryant's 76 games and Nash's 64.
San Antonio (62-20) had already clinched the NBA's best record and rested Tim Duncan against the Lakers. Tony Parker played only 16 minutes.
Young and Meeks made one final case for future employment with the Lakers, scoring 16 and 14 points. Young is expected to decline a player option for $1.2 million next season. Meeks is a free agent after making $1.6 million this season.
"I wanted to come back home and get a taste of the playoffs and do what the Lakers normally do," Young said. "But it didn't happen. Things happen."
In a worse way than ever, they really did.
Twitter: @Mike_BresnahanCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times