Kobe Bryant will not play in the Lakers final regular season game Thursday… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images…)
SACRAMENTO—Kobe Bryant made a handful of half-court shots Thursday in a playful competition with teammates and assistant coach Chuck Person, but the Lakers star won’t make so much as a layup against Sacramento.
Lakers Coach Mike Brown said Bryant would sit out the team’s final regular-season game and concede the NBA scoring title to Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant.
Bryant needed 38 points to surpass Durant for what would have been his third scoring title. Durant averaged 28.0 points per game, a tick above Bryant’s 27.9.
Bryant has scored 38 points or more seven times this season.
Brown said he asked the 33-year-old Bryant how old he would have had to be to want to go for the scoring title and the star shooting guard told him he wouldn’t have gone for it at any age.
To make his point, Bryant told Brown about the game in December 2005 when Bryant single-handedly outscored the Dallas Mavericks, 62-61, through three quarters. Asked by then-Lakers Coach Phil Jackson if he wanted to go back into the game for the fourth quarter, Bryant declined the offer.
“Contrary to what everybody possibly thinks about him,” Brown said, alluding to a perception that Bryant is motivated by scoring, “that’s not what he’s all about even though he could go out and get 40 tonight. He’s capable of going out and getting 40 literally on any given night.”
Brown said Bryant’s stretch of four consecutive games with at least 40 points in January was triggered by the coach’s request for Bryant to carry the Lakers’ offense.
“He and I actually had a conversation before that streak started about him needing to score more for us because we were in transition and I felt that if he scored, I felt our defense was pretty good early on and we just needed to find somebody to score for us,” Brown said. “He did it.”
Brown said starters Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol would also not play Thursday against the Kings to rest before the Lakers' first-round playoff series, which starts Sunday at Staples Center against Denver or Dallas.
With Matt Barnes still nursing an ankle injury and Metta World Peace scheduled to start serving his seven-game suspension for elbowing James Harden, Brown said his starting lineup would consist of point guards Ramon Sessions and Steve Blake and forwards Christian Eyenga, Josh McRoberts and Jordan Hill.
It will be Eyenga’s Lakers debut after the second-year player was promoted from the Development League.
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