Kobe Bryant and the LA Lakers were thrashed by the Oklahoma City Thunder 122-97 on Friday night–hardly a surprise considering LA's point guards are all riding the pine with various injuries.
Kobe was left to guard Russell Westbrook for minutes at a time. It doesn't take a genius to see the Kobe's not up to that level of athleticism on defense as he returns from his Achilles injury, and truth be told he may have lost that ability a couple years back. Russ had all the time to do his thing, dropping 19 points to go with 12 dimes, while KD added 31 to finish the deal.
But Kobe doesn't see any reason to worry.
"I'm not worried about it, to be honest with you," Bryant said after the his third loss in a row. "We've seen worse. We forget kind of what we had to go through last year. I'm not really too concerned about it. I think our heart is in the right place. I think I saw a lot of positive things tonight; we just got to put it together for longer stretches. We'll be fine."
Last year, yours truly dismissed LA's chances of making the playoffs only to be proven wrong by Bean himself. He makes a habit of that. But even with Kobe, the Lakers weren't challenging teams like the Thunder for seven games anyway, all of which begs the question: what is "fine" for Kobe and the Lakers?
Are they content with another first-round playoff exit, biding time while waiting for the free agent class of 2014? If they're not, what's the end-game? Because from this angle, it looks a whole lot like LA's going to be scraping by all season long, only to suffer at the hands of one of these stacked young-gun squads like OKC or Golden State in the first round.
Sadly, that's what's on the horizon for Kobe's final chapter, unless LA makes a move.
Since it's LA, we can be relatively reassured that they will try. But as we've seen in sports more recently, big markets aren't necessarily the biggest draws for players. It only took about five minutes for the lowly cross-town rival Clippers to get back in the limelight, sharing it with OKC and Golden State, two other dormant squads for most of LA's reign as the coolest cats on the block.
Where's that shine now, though, in the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately era? New York seems to have lost it's luster, with both the Knicks and Nets scraping the cellar of the East. The Lakers have obviously proven themselves more capable of building a franchise than James Dolan and Billy King, though the younger members of the Buss family raise a few more eyebrows than their parents did.
Of course, LA will always be a destination, and the rumors of Carmelo Anthony joining forces with Kobe seem highly plausible, as does a move from UCLA grad Kevin Love. Rest assured, there will be no shortage of lust for Laker gold.
The only question is when that love will bear the fruit of a contract, and whether it will overlap with Kobe's final days as a Laker.
Because this ain't how Kobe should be going out. But right now, it's all he's got.