Even the most faithful of Lakers fans had to know going into Tuesday night’s season opener against the Houston Rockets that the odds they were witnessing Game 1 of another championship season were pretty astronomical.
But nonetheless, it was opening freaking night! It was Staples Center! It was Kobe Bryant’s return! Byron Scott’s first game as head coach! The creator of Showtime was ready:
Now heading back to LA to go to the @Lakers/Rockets game! Can't wait to see the Lakers play & how well Coach Scott & Kobe Bryant perform!
But no one could forsee the disaster that Tuesday night turned into. After 48 humbling minutes, hopes for a season of "Hey, maybe we can sneak into the playoffs as the 8 seed" transformed into "Who’s supposed to be the top prospect in next year’s draft?" (See more on that final note below.)
Sure, a 108-90 loss to the hated Laker turncoat Dwight Howard and his Rockets was bad. Bryant, who looked like his young self again in the first half, scoring a team-high 16 points, went 0 for 4 in the second half and scored three points. But that was just the beginning.
With a little more than seven minutes remaining, Howard grabbed a rebound and hit Bryant in the jaw with an elbow. Kobe, ever the competitor, was relegated to jawing with his former teammate — the guy he thought would bring him more rings as a Laker.
The Lakers were down 25 at the time.
Bryant appeared to yell "Try me!" at Howard, who wore his usual broad grin while responding.
"There’s no need to go into it. We won the game," Howard said. "It’s over with. It’s about basketball. I’m not even focused on it."
"You can’t help but like him," Bryant said with a straight face after the game. "He’s a teddy bear. I really mean that. He’s a nice kid."
Kobe and the Lakers’ chin-check wasn’t complete, however, until rookie Julius Randle, the No. 7 overall pick, broke his right leg and was stretchered off the floor.
No word on how long he will be out, but you can see where this is going.
Byron announces that rookie Julius Randle suffered a broken tibia. He’s currently being transferred to the hospital.
"We’ll help him through this, and he’ll come back a better basketball player," Bryant added after the game. "That’s the goal, is to try to find a silver lining in this. He’ll use the time to come back and be stronger."
And all that was piled on top of Bryant coming off another lost season to injury at the age of 36.
Now he’ll have to turn his tired legs right back around and play in Phoenix on Wednesday night. Speaking of Phoenix, the Lakers’ increasingly daunting rebuilding effort could be undone by the Suns — L.A. traded a top-five protected pick in the 2015 Draft to Phoenix to get Nash in the summer of 2012.
Man, the Lakers sure could use some help right about now.
#wow I might have to leave China and come to LA. This is bad!!!