(Photo: Jesse Johnson / USA Today Sports)
Kobe Bryant’s farewell tour hasn’t been the glorious final ride through the league as goes off into the sunset that many had envisioned.
Bryant is shooting a career worst 32.4 percent from the field and 23.5 percent from 3 this season. The negative impact of Bryant’s poor play has been much larger on the team due to his high usage rate of 29.9 percent meaning he is not just shooting bad, he also shooting a lot.
The poor play of Bryant has led to loud criticism from the media covering the Lakers which has been directed almost equally between Bryant himself for not taking a step back and Coach Byron Scott for allowing it.
Much of Bryant’s poor performance this season has been explained away by many as just a result of normal attrition by way of a 37 year old player entering his 20th season in the league that has logged over 56,000 minutes including regular season and playoffs combined and coming off 3 major injuries each of the last 3 seasons.
Bryant even admitted during the season that he is feeling every bit of the wear on his body from those 1,255 career games.
“Right now, I’m barely standing up. My back and my legs, man, it’s killing me.” Bryant told an ESPN reporter after a game just a little more than 2 weeks into this season.
In that same game, Bryant, with a serious tone told reporters:
“I’m not looking forward to walking to the car, Seriously.”
Fast forward a month later Bryant walks to his car might not have improved but his play on the court has, at least in the last 4 games.
Bryant sounded much different following the Houston Rockets which was the last game of an 8 game trip in which he played in all of them.
“I feel pretty good. I feel like my legs are finally starting to catch up,” Bryant said to reporters. “Better late than never. It’s like the rhythm is starting to come back a little bit. My legs are moving pretty well. I felt good.”
The improved efficiency and reduced usage in Bryant’s game hasn’t resulted in better results in the win-loss column as the team has gone 0-4 in that span, but combined with the much improved play of rookie D’Angelo Russell it could be a sign that the Lakers are on the verge of much improved play to close out the remaining 58 games of the season.
With the Lakers 8 games back (on the loss side) of the 10-13 Utah Jazz who currently hold the 8th and final playoff spot, a playoff run is highly unlikely; however, with even just a moderate .500 run to close the season and what is looking like an under .500 team to take the last playoff spot in the West, they could get close enough to make it a talking point (albeit a far fetched one) to close out the season which would be significantly more enjoyable to watch for Lakers’ fan and create a more respectable close to Bryant’s illustrious career.