Kobe Bryant and young Lakers didn’t come together as well as had been hoped

Lakers forward Kobe Bryant waves goodbye to fans after a game against the Clippers.

Lakers forward Kobe Bryant waves goodbye to fans after a game against the Clippers.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Lakers Coach Byron Scott has a vision of Kobe Bryant’s final shot.

Bryant gets the ball down low, perhaps on the right post, and scores on his patented fadeaway with almost no time left next Wednesday against the Utah Jazz. The Lakers win and Bryant goes out a hero amid slowly dissolving cheers at Staples Center.

Bryant had a different idea of what he wanted in his final game.

“Win the championship,” he said Wednesday. “That — ain’t happening, so there you go.”

Long before this season began, Lakers officials hoped there would be a somewhat successful confluence of young and old — Bryant leading the way with D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle eagerly learning on the fly.

It’s exactly what hasn’t happened for the Lakers (16-62), who begin the final trip of Bryant’s tenure Friday in New Orleans.

Bryant has largely been an apparition, playing more games than expected but attending about 3% of practices and shootarounds. And that might be generous.


He has dutifully tried to preserve his body in his 20th NBA season. The fact he’d likely hit 66 games on his last route through the league was impressive considering his previous three seasons were prematurely ended because of injury.

The many gifts and pregame ceremonies on the road have been thoroughly enjoyed by Bryant — and also deserved — since he announced his retirement intentions Nov. 29.

But though he went through countless hours of stretching and massage therapy every week, the Lakers’ young players were left without him on the practice floor while wondering whether he’d be in the lineup for the next game.

It didn’t help team continuity throughout this season, and that was well before last week’s saga with Russell, Nick Young and a leaked video.

Earlier this week, Scott said it “bothered the hell” out of him that Bryant was going out with so many losses. He reminded everybody that Bryant was “a champion” and cited frustration with uninspired efforts from just about every player except 36-year-old Metta World Peace.

Bryant doesn’t seem as annoyed by it. He hasn’t shot well all season (35.3%), and his shot selection itself is often dubious, so he can’t point too many fingers.

The embers of competition have blown out in his body, but to be fair, he’s been plenty intense throughout his career. Bryant, 37, had some thoughts on when his young teammates would start showing full-bore intensity in games, as he always did at their age.

“Metta, as far as he can remember, he was that way. As far as I can remember, I was that way. It’s hard to comprehend or understand where that comes from, but at the same time we’ve seen players not have that at the beginning and then develop that,” Bryant said.


“You’ve kind of got to go through failures and go through, I think, situations where you feel like you’re at rock bottom and the only thing to do is to fight back.”

There’s hardly a bigger form of adversity than what the Lakers are going through now. Maybe next season will be different for the Lakers and their youth.

With Phoenix’s victory Thursday over Houston, the Lakers clinched the NBA’s second-worst record and a 55.8% chance at keeping their top-three protected pick on lottery night.

Costly Bryant merchandise

Forget the cost of tickets for Bryant’s final game. You should see the price of some merchandise.


Anschutz Entertainment Group announced a slew of exclusive Bryant “24 Collection” items leading up to Wednesday’s finale.

The costliest item is a black lamb-leather cap with an 18-karat gold “24” on the front. Brace for sticker shock, please: It retails for $38,024, according to a news release. AEG also offers a purple diamond cashmere cap for $24,008. It even has gold snakeskin under the visor. There were only eight made by New Era of each of the above caps.

Still outside your price range?

There’s an exclusive boxed jersey with a snake-print body that details Bryant’s career accomplishments up and down the inseam. It costs $824.

AEG is also selling 248 caps to commemorate Bryant’s 81-point game 10 years ago. They have Swarovski crystals and his points per quarter from that night embossed on four side panels. They cost $248.24.

Hey, it’s still cheaper than tickets to the actual game. They currently range from $670 for a seat in the upper reaches to $9,270 for second row at center court.

AEG, which owns Staples Center, is also offering Bryant coins, jackets and pins among the 50 or so items available while supplies last. They can be found now at and next Wednesday at the Team LA Store at Staples Center.




When: 5 p.m. PDT, Friday.

Where: Smoothie King Center.

On the air: TV: TWC SportsNet, TWC Deportes; Radio: 710, 1330.

Records: Lakers 16-62; Pelicans 29-49.

Record vs. Pelicans: 2-0.

Update: Here’s a team the Lakers actually have a winning record against this season. They beat New Orleans in January, 95-91, as Lou Williams totaled 19 points and eight assists, and again in February, 99-96, behind Kobe Bryant’s 27 points and 12 rebounds. The Pelicans were a trendy preseason pick to make the playoffs but were damaged by injuries to Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon and, more recently, Anthony Davis.

Follow Mike Bresnahan on Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan