Lakers coach Byron Scott unsure if Kobe Bryant would play pick-up basketball after retirement. (photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group)
The concerns about Kobe Bryant’s durability sounded ridiculous to the Lakers’ 37-year-old star. Then again, when has Bryant not found those questions dumb?
Bryant scoffed about any possible decline during his early 30’s as he won back-to-back NBA titles. Bryant laughed at it again when he received innovative treatments to push back Father Time. Bryant dismissed the uncertainties when he rehabbed from three season-ending injuries to his left Achilles tendon (April 2013), left knee (Dec. 2013) and right shoulder (Dec. 2015).
So it seemed hardly surprising that Bryant sneered again about his health during his 20th and final NBA season.
“What’s long-term?” Bryant asked rhetorically in early December. Bryant then joked with a reporter, “Equinox pick-up games, dude. I’ll post your (butt) up there. It doesn’t matter.”
Apparently it matters to Lakers coach Byron Scott.
He called it “50-50” that Bryant will play when the Lakers (14-55) host the Memphis Grizzlies (41-30) on Tuesday at Staples Center after missing six of the past 10 games with right shoulder soreness. But the variables on how much Bryant plays in the Lakers’ last 13 games goes beyond whether he feels just physically fine to compete that night.
“You have to look out for yourself, too. You want to make sure that you don’t do some serious serious damage to it and 10 years from now, you regret it,” Scott said. “I would love for him to play all the games just like you guys would and the fans. But I don’t think that’s possible.”
No doubt, Scott has mostly deferred to Bryant on his playing status. In the past month, Bryant has made it a bigger priority to play in final road games and at home games against either a marquee opponent or player. But Scott remained mostly concerned about Bryant’s status for the Lakers’ season finale on April 13 against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center.
Said Scott: “I want you to play in that last game and be able to walk off the court.”
Bryant has stressed the same things, but what about his dismissiveness toward being healthy enough to play at Equinox during his retirement?
“He should be because I played in some Equinox pickup games and those games aren’t friendly,” Scott said, laughing. “Obviously he wasn’t real concerned about it [earlier]. I think he was all about he present. But as we got further and further along into the season, I think he also was thinking about the future.”