Kobe Bryant is 37 years old, but he turned back the clock about five years on Wednesday night, pouring in a season-high 31 points in a 108-104 win over the Wizards in Washington.
Los Angeles (3-15) still has the worst record in the Western Conference – and the second-worst record in the NBA – but that didn’t matter to Lakers fans. Not last night, anyway.
“This town is still a Lakers town, no matter how bad they are,” Fox Sports West’s Jill Painter Lopez said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “They just got their third win of the season, but most fans are still Lakers fans. There’s a lot of Clippers fans coming up since they’ve had some good teams over the last few years. But even (in losing seasons), there’s always drama or Kobe Bryant’s health issues. There’s always something to kind of keep the Lakers in the forefront. Certainly the losing does not sit well with anybody, but I think this finally gives Lakers fans and this city something to look forward to the rest of the year.
“Remember, they have three wins this year,” Painter Lopez continued. “They’re not a good team. (They have) a lot of young guys. But for Kobe, he absolutely deserves this. I’m glad it happened at this time and that he decided to (announce his retirement when he did) so he can get the respect and love and adoration that he deserves. And maybe this adrenaline propels him to an even better season. He had a season-high 31 points tonight in Washington and kind of joked that he thought everybody there hated him, but I think for this farewell tour, everybody’s going to love him a little bit. They’re going to be happy to see him go, though, because he has not produced here the last few years and just couldn’t stay healthy.”
With the Lakers destined for the lottery, Bryant becomes the official Los Angeles story for the rest of the season. Then again, what else would we talk about? The work-in-progress that is D’Angelo Russell? Byron Scott’s dealings with Nick Young?
“No, it’s all about Kobe,” Painter Lopez said. “It was going to be all about Kobe the rest of the year anyway. Literally story after story after story on Kobe Bryant and how may minutes he’s playing every game – whether it’s up, whether it’s down – so he’s the story. Now it’s somewhat interesting to see what kind of farewell gifts he gets and the attention he receives from opposing fans and even the ones here in L.A.”