Face of the Lakers Kobe Bryant is leaving fate of the franchise up in the air
When Kobe Bryant retires, the Lakers obviously need a new franchise player.
Is the next Bryant already on their roster? Byron Scott doesn’t think so.
“When you look at our young corps, I don’t look at none of those guys as being that next Kobe,” the Lakers coach said Monday before the Lakers got crushed by the Utah Jazz, 123-75. “I think they could be a piece of it, a part of it, but not to get to that level he’s gotten to.
“If there is one that can do that, it’s going to take a whole hell of a lot of work to get there, a lot of dedication to be able to get to that pinnacle as far as basketball is concerned.”
Bryant is the third-leading scorer in NBA history. He has won five NBA championships. There are few, if any Kobe Bryants on any NBA roster, period.
But Scott’s point was loud and clear: D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson have a ton of ground to cover if they want to be considered one of the best to ever play the game.
“All three of those guys have talent, no doubt about it,” Scott said. “All three of those guys are athletic. They all can do some things with that basketball, but they’ve got to spend a whole lot of time this summer on that end of the floor [and] a whole lot of time in the film room and on the court on the defensive end of the floor.”
That’s a long list.
Bryant seemed to agree, in fewer words. Is there a player with his killer instinct already on the Lakers, a franchise player in waiting?
“If you have to ask that question than the answer is already there,” he said.
As if to prove the point, Clarkson, Russell and Randle struggled mightily against the Jazz, combining for 19 points on eight-for-34 shooting (23.5%).
Bryant was off the mark as well (one-for-11 shooting) and Monday’s loss tied the largest in the Lakers’ 68-year history, matching a 48-point drubbing by the Clippers two years ago.
Help could be on the way. The Lakers are close to clinching the NBA’s second-worst record and a 55.8% chance at keeping their top-three-protected draft pick on lottery night.
For a quicker impact, they’ll have about $55 million to spend this summer on free agents. Maybe then they’ll get the franchise player they desperately crave.
Utah Jazz guard Shelvin Mack (8) shoots over Lakers forward Julius Randle (30) during the second quarter.(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)
Lakers forward Kobe Bryant looks on before the start of his final game against the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City.(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)
Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson (6) goes to the basket as Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) defends during the second quarter.(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)
Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) walks off the court at the end of the second quarter during his final game against the Jazz in Salt Lake City.(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)
Lakers forward Kobe Bryant, right, defends against Jazz guard Rodney Hood (5) during the second quarter.(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)
Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) drives around Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) during the first quarter.(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)
A fan holds a sign for Lakers forward Kobe Bryant during the second quarter.(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)
Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson (6) goes to the basket as Utah Jazz guards Rodney Hood (5) and Shelvin Mack, right, look on during the first quarter.(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)
Said Scott: “It would be nice.”
Rookie Larry Nance Jr. sat out Monday’s game as a precaution. He had pain in his surgically repaired right knee earlier this season and the team decided he would not play both games of a back-to-back situation. Nance had nine points, seven rebounds and four steals Sunday against Washington. . . . Nick Young did not travel with the team for Monday’s game because of intestinal flulike symptoms.
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