The Los Angeles Lakers are putting the finishing touches on the worst season in the iconic franchise’s 68-year history, but given the nightly standing ovations for Kobe Bryant, you wouldn’t know it.
Kobe’s farewell tour is all anyone in Laker Nation cares about, and his younger teammates say that the crowd puts pressure on them to force-feed the Black Mamba.
Bryant, despite shooting a career-worst 35 percent from the field, continues to (loudly) demand the rock.
Per the LA Daily News:
“Give Kobe the ball,” (D’Angelo) Russell said. “Wherever he’s at, give him the ball.” […] Bryant has three games left of a glorious 20-year NBA career to perform wonders with that ball, including when the Lakers (16-62) visit the New Orleans Pelicans (29-49) on Friday at Smoothie King Center.
“I feel bad for the other guys because every time they shoot the ball, they get booed,” Bryant said. “I can feel that and I understand that. I just try to get my body ready as much as possible to try to give the fans what they want for these last few games. God willing, I’m healthy and I can move and I can play well enough and I can give them what they came to see one more time.” […] Yet, Bryant insisted he has told his teammates “to just play the game.” Lakers coach Byron Scott reported he has threatened his players “if they don’t shoot, they’ll get pulled out of the game.”
As much as Bryant insisted he “will defer,” Russell said Bryant has often instructed him to pass him the ball. Both Bryant’s commanding presence and his teammates’ respect for him make it difficult to say “no.” Of course, it does not help the crowd endlessly cheers for Bryant to add to his career 33, 521 points. […] “I couldn’t imagine if I was in that situation and I was playing with (Michael Jordan),” Bryant said. “You’d almost have to beat me up not to pass him the ball.”