It’s only Monday but already worth asking in a horribly mundane Lakers season: How will Kobe Bryant be received by fans Wednesday in his last game in Boston?
With Philadelphia out of the way, it could be the most attractive road game left on his farewell tour.
The setup started a few days ago, when Bryant revealed he listened daily to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” for two years because he wanted to remember the depth of the Lakers’ embarrassment in the 2008 NBA Finals.
Fans couldn’t stop singing it after the Celtics’ 39-point Game 6 victory, so Bryant couldn’t stop listening to it.
Lakers Coach Byron Scott, who battled Boston in three memorable NBA Finals in the 1980s, predicted a warm reaction.
“As much as the Celtics hate us and we hate them, I think the Celtics fans are some of the most knowledgeable fans in the world. I think they’ll give him the same type of respect that he deserves and that he’s been given everywhere else,” Scott said.
Perhaps a precedent was set when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played his last game in Boston in 1988. Abdul-Jabbar, 41 at the time, was given a framed slab of the Garden’s parquet floor by Celtics legend Red Auerbach.
Abdul-Jabbar also received a one-minute, 35-second standing ovation from Celtics fans that night. Scott was there as Abdul-Jabbar’s teammate.
Lakers forward Julius Randle and Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph battle for a rebound during a Dec. 27 game in Memphis.(Karen Pulfer Focht / Associated Press)
Grizzlies guard Russ Smith (2) tries to steal the ball from Lakers guard Marcelo Huertas during the second half.(Karen Pulfer Focht / Associated Press)
Lakers forward Ryan Kelly tries to drive past Grizzlies guard Vince Carter during the second half.(Karen Pulfer Focht / Associated Press)
Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell (1) tries to fight through a screen by Grizzlies forward JaMychal Green while guarding Vince Carter in the first half.(Karen Pulfer Focht / Associated Press)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant drives against Grizzlies guard Tony Allen in the first half Sunday.(Karen Pulfer Focht / Associated Press)
Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson pushes the ball up court against the Grizzlies in the first half.(Karen Pulfer Focht / Associated Press)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant looks for some room to operate against Grizzlies guard Tony Allen in the first half Sunday.(Karen Pulfer Focht / Associated Press)
Lakers forward Julius Randle spins away from the double-team defense of Grizzlies forward JaMychal Green, left, and guard Mario Chalmers in the first half.(Karen Pulfer Focht / Associated Press)
Lakers forward Nick Young (0) uses a screen from center Roy Hibbert (17) to drive past Grizzlies forward Matt Barnes in the first half.(Karen Pulfer Focht / Associated Press)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is greeted by Grizzlies center Marc Gasol before Sunday’s game.(Karen Pulfer Focht / Associated Press)
“It wasn’t a standing ovation for [his] 20 years, but it was a standing ovation when he decided to retire,” Scott said, developing a one-liner. “Maybe that’s because he was whooping them so much.”
Fans cheered Bryant loudly in Philadelphia, Washington, Detroit and Toronto. They weren’t so kind in San Antonio, but he has another game there before bowing out.
He had not announced his retirement when the Lakers played in New York last month. Other notable road games for him include Sacramento on Jan. 7 and San Antonio on Feb. 6.
Despite the Lakers’ atrocious 5-26 record, this remains an important season for Jordan Clarkson.
A restricted free agent next July, he’s managed to increase his stats for the most part, averaging 14.7 points on 46% shooting. His assists are slightly down (2.2 a game).
“If his numbers had dipped big-time, then it would be a little bit more of a concern,” Scott said. “But being that his numbers are [about] the same and now people know who he is and what he can do, I think that’s still pretty good.”