Not these Lakers, really. The ones that were champions just a handful of a years ago.
The trip down championship lane happened after the Lakers lost to the New Orleans Pelicans, 109-102, in a game Wednesday that wasn't nearly as close as the score.
Their problems were nothing new — no defense, an over-reliance on Bryant, scant supporting help, Bryant not shooting overly accurate — but the fun began when Bryant was probed about the Lakers' next opponent, the San Antonio Spurs.
Specifically, how they keep winning championships — five since 1999, their most recent this past June — with an almost intact nucleus of
"I'm extremely jealous of that," Bryant said. "I don't know if I can express to you how jealous I am of the fact that Tim, Tony, Manu and Pop have all been together for all those years. Like, I can't even ... I can't express to you how jealous I am of that. Not all this up and down stuff."
Bryant said it without rancor, as if he was in total admiration, if not adoration.
The Lakers have indeed been up and down, skidding for several years after their three consecutive titles in the early 2000s, then winning in 2009 and 2010 with a Bryant-Pau Gasol-
There will be apparently more of the same this season, the Lakers off to a 1-7 start with very little pointing toward a playoff appearance.
It eats at Bryant, and it came out while he spoke about San Antonio.
"It would be like if me, Pau, L.O. and Phil [Jackson], if we all were just here still. It's crazy," he said wistfully.
He also said he looked forward to "getting back out there and playing against that silver and black. It's going to feel good to match up with them."
Maybe at first, but the Lakers will be heavy underdogs Friday at Staples Center.
Their defense just isn't good enough. So says their coach after they gave up a ridiculously sublime 60 points in the paint to the Pelicans.
"We just did a terrible job defensively," Byron Scott said. "No resistance whatsoever. It was just terrible.
"We've got to get to the point now where we're just getting tired of playing like this. That's the bottom line."
Tyreke Evans had 11 assists. He's a shooting guard.
"It was a layup drill," Bryant said.
Bryant was having a night, scoring 14 first-quarter points, but then he wasn't having a night, checking out at the end of the third quarter with 23 points on eight-for-24 shooting.
If he goes cold, so do the Lakers, who went from a two-point first-quarter edge to an 85-72 deficit after three.
"We find ourselves in a hole quite a bit and I try to dig us out of it a little bit," Bryant said before trying to add some gallows humor. "I'll probably stop shooting bail-out shots. I'll just swing it" to someone else.
Bryant finished with 33 points on 35.7% shooting, too low for the Lakers to be competitive.
Adding insult to an already injury-ridden roster,
Above all, there was Bryant at the end, sitting with his feet in an ice bath a few months into his 36th year of existence.
Someone asked if he took anything positive away from Wednesday's game.