NEW ORLEANS -- On Thursday, Kobe Bryant and his two daughters were playing at his house in Newport Beach, California, and the girls didn’t want him to leave.
“Why can't you stay home?” they asked him.
“This is the last one,” the Los Angeles Lakers star told them. “One more.”
With that, Bryant, who is soon to retire after 20 NBA seasons, headed to the airport to board the Lakers’ charter flight for his final road trip, a three-game trek that began in New Orleans, where the Lakers lost to the Pelicans 110-102 on Friday at Smoothie King Center.
“I’ve never been so excited in my life to start a road trip,” Bryant said upon beginning this final trip. “Very excited. It’s strange. This is the last time, the last trip.”
The Lakers head to Houston to face the Rockets on Sunday and then close the trip against the Thunder on Monday in Oklahoma City.
Lakers coach Byron Scott said he noticed a difference when Bryant, who finished with 14 points on 4-of-15 shooting in 22 minutes against the Pelicans, took his seat on the team’s plane before it left Los Angeles.
“It was kind of weird, to be honest with you,” Scott said. “I was sitting there, and he sits adjacent to me, so I was on the plane, and he got on, and we just kind of looked at each other and smiled and just said, ‘Man, last one.’”
Scott continued: “It’s been a long, beautiful journey, and like I said, when it’s all said and done, my main objective this season was to get him to be able to walk off that basketball court on April 13, and we’re getting close to that, and I think we both realize that.”
Scott half-joked that he might play Bryant all 48 minutes in the season finale against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center.
“I’ll be like, ‘KB, I’m just going to keep you out there until you tell me you want to rest,” Scott said. “When you say, 'Coach, take me out for a few minutes,' I’ll take you out. That’s really my thought process right now.”
Bryant laughed at the thought.
“We kind of have that relationship now,” Bryant said. “At the same time, we both know: I can play a certain amount of minutes and then sit down and then come down and come back and try to play. I gave it all I have. But damn, I’ve been there for 20 years. You’ve seen a lot of s--- already. What more can I do?”
Is 48 minutes a possibility?
“Man, stop it,” Bryant said with a laugh. “No.”