All signs Wednesday pointed toward the Lakers’ returning to the Kobe Bryant Farewell Tour.
Bryant missed the last three games because of a sore right shoulder. But after Bryant told Lakers Coach Byron Scott that he was flying with the team to Sacramento for Thursday night’s game, Scott concluded that his star will play in Sacramento for the final time in his 20-year career.
“First of all I said, ‘Are you making the trip?’” Scott said. “I said, ‘Cause if you’re making the trip, I’ve got a pretty good idea that means you’re going to play.’ He said he feels good. I said, ‘OK, good. Sounds good to me.’ So if he makes the trip, I’m pretty sure he wants to play.”
“I can play with a sore throat, but I didn’t really have any energy,” Russell said. “I felt really slow. I was like it was not worth it.”
Russell was back at practice Wednesday, working on his low-post moves with assistant coaches.
“Unless he has some type of relapse tomorrow, I expect him to play as well,” Scott said.
Since Bryant announced his retirement plans Nov. 29, he has missed just one road game, at Oklahoma City, where the Lakers return April 11.
“I’m sure a little bit of that went into play,” Scott said. “I think most of it is more of he feels a lot better, so he’s ready to play again. I think if he felt the way he felt two days ago, then we wouldn’t be talking about him playing in Sacramento. But progress has been made on the shoulder, he feels better and we’ll go from there tomorrow and see how much he can take in the game.
“It’ll be the last time he’ll be in Sacramento. So obviously, I think the fans will be very respectful. But as far as the game is concerned, we’ll have to see how that goes.”
Scott approached Julius Randle during practice Wednesday and told his young power forward that he hasn’t lost faith in the second-year player.
Scott had singled out Randle for pouting and not playing defense in Sunday’s win against Phoenix. Randle didn’t like being called out by Scott.
In his last two games Randle has made only one of 12 field goal attempts for four points, although he did grab 21 rebounds.
“‘But that’s OK. That’s my job to teach you and there’s times I’m going to be extremely hard on you.’ And I said, ‘When we get to the point where I’m not talking to you, then we’ve got a big problem.’”