The Lakers aren’t alone in careening toward another season of new lows. Kobe Bryant is right there with them.
He had one of his worst shooting nights as the Lakers lost to the San Antonio Spurs, 93-80, Friday at Staples Center.
He made only one of 14 attempts, his roughest outing when taking more than four shots, including playoffs and regular season.
Not surprisingly, the Lakers (1-8) moved within one loss of the worst start in franchise history through 10 games. Only a basketball miracle will prevent it from happening Sunday against Golden State.
Bryant finished with nine points and sat expressionless on the bench for the final part of the fourth quarter, one towel draped over his shoulders, another over his legs.
He sat down hard in the chair in front of his locker for his postgame interview. He said he started feeling sick and “achy” Friday morning.
“I didn’t feel too good, but I’m used to playing through that,” Bryant said. “It’s tough, man. Tonight was just one of those nights where it makes me really remember the challenge of being 36 and being 19 years in [the NBA].
“Body just won’t respond when you’re sick and you’re used to being able to fight through those things. It just helps me really remember exactly what I’m facing.”
Bryant has played through plenty of illnesses, declining to take sick days while his performance barely drops. Something obviously made Friday different.
“Nineteen years. That’s what’s different,” Bryant said, trying to laugh it off. “In all honestly, it’s a long season. I feel great. But tonight was one of those nights where it just caught up.”
It’s been a long week for Bryant, who on Tuesday set the NBA record for most career misses (now 13,452). Then came this three days later.
He didn’t make a basket until an 18-foot turnaround from the left side with 10:59 to play. He was 0 for 10 at the time.
“I think if you’re around the business long enough, you’re pretty much going to see everything,” Lakers Coach Byron Scott said. “This was that night for Kobe as far as not being able to make his shots on a consistent basis.”
Bryant was accurate on one thing. San Antonio is a franchise to envy.
So were the Lakers over the years, but certainly not now. These are perplexing times, their 1-4 start under Mike Brown two years ago suddenly feeling like the glory days.
Bryant was wistful when he spoke of the Spurs a few days ago, calling himself “extremely jealous” of their ability to keep winning with the intact nucleus of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Coach Gregg Popovich.
Five San Antonio championships since 1999 came without “all this up and down stuff” experienced by the Lakers, Bryant said, presumably the valley created when Shaquille O’Neal left and before Pau Gasol arrived.
And, of course, the deep one they’re in now.
Bryant’s stats had looked better than they actually were coming into the game.
Yes, he was leading the league in scoring before Friday’s games, averaging 27.5 points. But he was shooting only 40.8% on two-point shots, well below his career average of 48.3%. That number dropped to 37.9%.
Sick or not, he played 36 minutes Friday. “He wanted to see if he could kind of push through it,” Scott said.
Carlos Boozer had a strong night, 19 points and eight rebounds, and Jeremy Lin added 15 points.
Duncan scored 13 points and reached 25,000 for his career in the first half, the 19th player to get there.
Thanks to injuries, Bryant hadn’t gone up against the Spurs since Jan. 9, 2013, saying beforehand he looked forward to “getting back out there and playing against that silver and black.”
The downtrodden Lakers showed their colors Friday — black and blue.