OKLAHOMA CITY — The farewell tour will come to a screeching halt. The Lakers can only hope temporarily.
Kobe Bryant will sit out when the Lakers (4-22) visit the Oklahoma City Thunder (17-9) on Saturday at Chesapeake Energy Arena because of emerging soreness in his right shoulder. The Lakers currently do not have answers on the severity of his injury or how it happened. Lakers coach Byron Scott only reported that Bryant woke up on Saturday morning feeling soreness.
But the development raised alarms for a few reasons. Bryant had torn the rotator cuff in his right shoulder in late January in New Orleans before needing season-ending surgery. Bryant also threw down a one-handed dunk with his right hand in Thursday’s game against Houston.
“You could definitely look at that as something could have happened. But I don’t want to assume anything at this particular point,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said before the game. “Anybody that saw the dunk and then a couple of days later is a little sore, you can put those two together. Btu I want to wait until I see what the doctor says.”
It is currently unclear if Bryant will fly back to Los Angeles to see a doctor or if he stay with the Lakers and their training staff when they travel to Denver following Saturday’s game. The Lakers do not play until Tuesday against the Nuggets, but Scott has scheduled practices in Denver on Sunday and Monday so his players can prepare for the city’s altitude.
As for Bryant, Scott said he did not wince when his star 37-year-old player dunked over Houston forward Clint Capela.
“When he threw it down, the only thing I thought was ‘Wow this is pretty good,'” Scott said. “For a 37 year old to get up like that in 20 years in this league, that was pretty impressive. I didn’t think about repercussions after the game, a day later or two days later.”
Meanwhile, Lakers rookie forward Anthony Brown will start in Bryant’s place and guard Thunder forward Kevin Durant, who has averaged 27.2 points per game on 52.7 percent shooting, which ranks third in the NBA. Brown has only played in five games this season in garbage time.
“I just don’t want him to ask for his autograph after the game,” Scott joked. “I’m anxious. I want to see how the young man reacts. It’s a great challenge. You want to see what he’s made of right away. I’m excited to see how this goes.”