LOS ANGELES -- For the third straight year, the Lakers have set a franchise record for most losses in a season.
Lakers star Kobe Bryant said he isn't fazed by the team's recent record.
"It's hard for people to understand this, but losing is losing," said Bryant, who is retiring this summer after playing 20 seasons with the Lakers. "There aren't different degrees of losing, not in my mind. You either win a championship or you're s---. It's very black and white to me.
"So whether you set a franchise record for losses or you get to the playoffs and lose in the Western Conference finals, those are the same damn things to me. A lot of people probably don't understand that, don't get that, and that's fine, but for me, they're all the same. So you either win a championship or you're in the same boat we're in."
The Lakers lost 61 games last season and 55 games in 2013-14. Their most losses before that came in 1957-58, when the team was based in Minneapolis and lost 53 games.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time a team set a franchise record for losses in three consecutive seasons was the Detroit Pistons from 1957 to 1960.
The Lakers have lost 178 games over the past three seasons; only the Philadelphia 76ers have lost more games over that span (195).
Last season's Lakers team was plagued by injuries, while this season's team has been relatively healthy, but Lakers coach Byron Scott pointed out that this team is inexperienced.
"So you take away some of the veterans that we had last year and you plug in these young guys that haven't played on this level, it's a different story," Scott said. "They're learning, and it's hard. When we had the veteran guys, they know how to compete every single night. They've been in the league for a while. These young guys, they don't know how to do that every night. That's what they're learning how to do, is to bring that intensity that we talked about earlier today.
"Bring that intensity level every single night, and for the young guys right now, with the attention to details that they don't have on a night-to-night basis, it's tough. But they're learning. They're getting a hard lesson for this year to kind of really learn what not to do and the way you have to prepare for games and the way you have to come every single night ready to play in this league or you're going to get your lunch handed to you."
One of those young guys, rookie point guard D'Angelo Russell, has one goal for Bryant's last four games.
"Give Kobe the ball," Russell said. "Wherever he's at, give him the ball."
To be sure, fans have been clamoring for Bryant to shoot on just about every possession throughout his 20th and final NBA season, but that sentiment seemed to intensity Wednesday during Bryant's penultimate game in his home arena.
Fans were all but booing any other Lakers player who shot the ball when Bryant was on the court, especially late in the game.
"I feel bad for the other guys, because every time they shoot the ball, they get booed," Bryant said after scoring a game-high 17 points on 6-of-19 shooting in nearly 28 minutes. "But, no, 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. And 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."
It does create an odd dynamic, which Bryant acknowledged.
"Honestly, 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 to not pass him the ball. But I will defer. I'll just come out and play the game and tell the guys, 'Play the game.' This is what I'm here for, one more time, to just play the game."
In all of those games, and especially in the finale, the focus will be on Bryant even more than it has been all season.
"You notice it," Russell said. "The fans want to see him with the ball 24/7, and that makes it easier for the defense, so you try to pick and choose when you get him the ball and not force anything."
Scott said the situation presents an unusual challenge for his young players.
"It can be tough," Scott said. "There's a lot of stuff that I've been throwing at them all season long, and for them to try to digest all that along with everything else that's gone on, especially now that we're winding down is even more of a focus on KB's last game. I think all that attention and focus is probably affecting them a little bit.
"Because they see it just like everybody else, and they want him to do well, and they try to get him the ball as much as possible when he's out on the floor. It's a lot to digest, and I haven't, I don't take that lightly. One of the timeouts tonight, I said, 'OK, we drew up a play, you messed that one up, and then we ran another play, you messed that up.' So I know the focus sometimes is not there because there's so much stuff going on."
But Scott doesn't want his players to completely defer to Bryant.
"Some of them I told if they don't shoot they're going to get pulled out of the game, when they're open," Scott said. "As much as I think they're trying to focus on KB getting his shots and playing well and getting his accolades, they still have to understand that there is a game to be played, and when you have shots, you've got to take them."