Surprisingly, Kobe Bryant is enjoying saying goodbye
After further review, Kobe Bryant is having a great time on his goodbye tour.
He swore in September he didn’t want one, wouldn’t need the gifts and adulation from adoring road crowds. He even scoffed at the lengthy farewell lap his friend and business partner, Derek Jeter, completed for the New York Yankees.
“We’re completely different people; I couldn’t do that,” he said before the Lakers took off for training camp in Honolulu.
That was seemingly ages ago, before Bryant hit the side of the backboard in his first shot of exhibition play. The losses collected in a flurry after that.
Bryant has been charming and insightful on the road, patiently and humorously answering reporters’ questions, often after awful Lakers losses.
“It’s fun. I’ve been enjoying it,” Bryant said before his final road game against the Memphis Grizzlies. “It’s been great to kind of go from city to city and say thank you to all the fans and be able to feel that in return.”
Bryant also said he announced his retirement in late November because he wanted the Lakers to get a head start on rebuilding by knowing his $25-million salary would be coming off the books in late June.
“In L.A., everything leaks anyway, so why not just come out and say it?” he said.
Bryant called the Grizzlies forward the best defender he ever faced.
“He was the only one that really took the challenge of playing straight up. He wasn’t looking for help, he wasn’t looking for support,” Bryant said, also remembering their battles when Allen was with Boston.
Wait a sec. What about Ruben Patterson, the self-proclaimed Kobe-stopper?
Bryant stopped the thought with a laugh.
“That’s good marketing. I did get him a nice contract up in Portland,” he said.
Bryant scored 60 points here in 2007, part of an amazing four-game run in which he had at least 50 points in all four. It still stands as a Grizzlies’ opponent record and the most points ever scored at FedEx Forum.
Kobe Bryant looks to pass while being defended by Grizzlies forwards Zach Randolph and Matt Barnes (22) during the first half of a game on Feb. 24.(Brandon Dill / Associated Press)
Kobe Bryant reacts from the sideline during a game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Feb. 24.(Brandon Dill / Associated Press)
Kobe Bryant talks with Grizzlies guard Vince Carter before a game Feb. 24 at the FedExForum in Memphis, Tenn.(Brandon Dill / Associated Press)
Grizzlies forward Matt Barnes, left, works to control the ball against Lakers forward Julius Randle (30) during the first half of a game on Feb. 24 as forward JaMychal Green looks on.(Brandon Dill / Associated Press)
Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (11) shoots against Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell (1) during the second half of a game on Feb. 24.(Brandon Dill / Associated Press)
Lakers forward Julius Randle is defended by Memphis forward Matt Barnes during the first half of a game on Feb. 24.(Brandon Dill / Associated Press)
Lakers forward Julius Randle heads to the basket in front of Grizzlies forwards Matt Barnes (22) and Chris Anderson (7) during a game on Feb. 24.(Brandon Dill / Associated Press)
Bryant holds six of the 11 highest individual scoring games against the Grizzlies, perhaps why the local TV pregame show included a graphic that said, “Good Riddance Kobe.”
Larry Nance Jr. played 15 minutes and had an impressive put-back dunk in the Lakers’ 128-119 loss to Memphis.
It was unexpected because two days earlier, Lakers Coach Byron Scott wondered whether to shut down Nance the rest of the season because of a continually sore right knee.
Lakers trainer Gary Vitti reassured Scott the soreness wasn’t serious, which was backed up by medical tests, so Nance was back in action after leaving Monday’s game abruptly in the third quarter.
“It was almost like show and tell, really,” he said of Wednesday’s game. “I would do something and look at them like, ‘See, guys, I’m all right.’”
Nance, averaging 5.7 points and 4.9 rebounds, missed 10 games because of the knee and left two others earlier than expected.
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