Robin Lopez joins former Hornets center Vlade Divac in sharing the dubious distinction as a pub quiz answer to a Kobe Bryant question. With 1:12 to go in the 2nd quarter, Kobe Bryant joined Kareem, MJ, Mailman, and Wilt as the 5th and youngest player in NBA history to reach the 30,000-point plateau. He drove, hesitated, and floated across the lane as he lofted the ball over the outstretched arm of Lopez.
As the NOLA crowd showered their former 13th pick with praise and adulation, they had to wonder if he would have accomplished the same feat had they not traded him to the Lakers for Divac. Speculation Kobe would have demanded a trade long before reaching the 10,000 mark, or that he would have never experienced the same success with Muggsy and Matt Gieger he did with Shaq and DFish sounds great, but smacks of buyer’s remorse. The “what if” banter fills pint glasses, electrifies microphones, and turns AM dials, but, in the words of Bill Murray, it just doesn’t matter.
Jerry West pulled the trigger on the deal for the straight-outta high schooler, and paired him with legends, and some legends in their own minds. In the end, it was Kobe who spent those countless hours on his baseline fade away, shook off air balls in the playoffs against Utah, and dropped 81 points one Sunday against the Raptors. Yet, despite all of that glorious history, the Lakers still trailed the 5-12 New Orleans Hornets 45-43 with 1:12 left in the 2nd quarter. Ask Kobe after a loss “how it feels to” achieve this or that individual record, and his answer would be dramatically different in tone and diction.
Fortunately, the Lakers checked their nostalgia about Kobe and kept their memories about the Houston loss short, except for how they lost. They limited offensive rebounds to 12, cut their turnovers to 9, and the guards, Duhon (10) and Morris (4), distributed 14 of their 24 assists. Although they ended the 1st half trailing by one, they didn’t let their early offensive woes haunt them late. A 13-0 run on 4 assists out of the locker room led to outscoring NOLA by 14 in the 3rd and established a solid, double digit lead going into the 4th.
Would it be déjà vu all over again in the Big Easy?
D’Antoni left MWP in with the bench to bolster their defensive performance, and it worked. Their obvious energy led to 3 forced TOs for steals and they extended the lead with a 14-8 run as Dwight and Kobe watched from the pine. The bench effort even nullified the Hack-A-Dwight, putting the game too far out of reach for any reasonable application of its recent effectiveness.
They actually didn’t have to go back into the game at the 5:58 mark, but Kob and Dwight made one more curtain call. Dwight jumped hooked and dunked 18 points on 7-11 looks, nabbed 8 boards, and swatted 5 shots. Ryan Anderson, in a possible audition for trade rumors from the Hornets to the Show, went Sacre-cray with 31 points, 5-8 from distance, and 9 boards. Even MWP scored his 12,000th point on a 3 off of a dime from Dwight in the 103-87 victory, but the night belonged to the Mamba.
The 9th win of the 2012-13 season will not endure as long as the “who was Kobe traded for,” and “who did he score his 30,000th point on” questions in the halls of trivia. But, in the present progressive of the Laker narrative, the right now, the Lakers didn’t squander a lead or let a W go without a fight. The Lakers won their second road game and continued their see saw with the .500 mark and playoff eligibility, both more important milestones.
They won. That’s far more memorable right now.