As Kobe Bryant crutched his way out of the away locker room after a devastating loss in Milwaukee, questions about his unrelated, yet troublesome ankle suddenly shrunk in the face of news of a bone spur in the same left foot. Kobe, calmly, coolly, smirked at the assertions of reporters and responded, “I’ll be alright.”
Heading into Sacramento, listed before the game as “probable,” the Lakers desperately needed a W. Utah and Dallas, once fading into the post season distance , suddenly are closer than they appear in the rear view mirror. The Lakers have lost the last three in Sacto, struggling mightily with their speed despite Kobe averaging 33 in their last six match ups. But, Kobe, adding to his HOF legacy which he will likely confirm as ending next season over the summer, miraculously recovered, as usual, and played all but 22.6 seconds in the 103-98 win over the Kings to stay tied with Utah for 8th in the West.
Instead of torching the Kings with jumper after jumper, Kobe transformed into KoBeethoven, the passing and sharing Bryant, especially after Nash, who valiantly gave it a go with hip spasms, left with a strained hamstring after only 1:48 of the 1st quarter. He gladly found his teammates for 14 assists, helping 6 other Lakers score in double-digits.
Dwight used layups and dunks to lead the way with 24. Blake and Meeks did damage from distance with 15 and 14 respectively. Pau picked up the passing slack with 10 of his own dimes.
Oh, and he passed Wilt Chamberlain for 4th on the NBA All-Time scoring list.
Wilt’s 31,419 became a reality one Sunday against Toronto when he challenged the mystical 100 hallmarked by a picture and a small sheet of paper with a one and two zeroes scrawled upon it. Kobe’s 81, one of many incredible scoring performances etched into the minds of fans and re-played on You Tube. Although this 5-18 outing for a mere 19 points pales in comparison, the win reigns of greater importance than the 31,434 points he sits atop.
With 8 games remaining, sacrifice is the Lakers identity. Passing and sharing the ball opens up opportunities for every jersey to find their shot. Defense, like the lock down man-to-man and on point rotations that they showed down the stretch to hold off the Kings, must be a nightly occurrence. MDA even gave Morris and Duhon a combined 5 minutes of run, which is vital considering the injuries mounting once again. Each Laker will follow Kobe’s lead. If he shrugs off the immense honor of the surpassing such NBA royalty as merely a testimony to his “longevity,” then makes a reference to Wilt’s screen share with Conan, he gives up accolades for a more important goal. He looks towards Dallas on Tuesday for the chance to push them backwards in the race for 8th.
He is also most likely working out how many he will now need to average to get to Mike’s 32,292 at No. 3.