LOS ANGELES -- Kobe Bryant scored 13 points on 4-of-20 shooting after declaring he will retire at the end of the season, and the Indiana Pacers hung on to send his Los Angeles Lakers to their sixth consecutive defeat, 107-103 Sunday night.
Paul George scored the Pacers' final 11 points in the last 1:27, finishing with 39 as Indiana opened a four-game West Coast road trip with its fifth straight victory despite blowing all but one point of a 22-point lead.
Bryant overcame another poor shooting night with two big late jumpers that reflected his vintage offensive skills. His quick-release 3-pointer from straightaway with 11 seconds left trimmed Indiana's lead to 104-103.
But after the Lakers got the ball back with a three-point deficit, Bryant shot an airball on a 3-pointer.
Reaction [to the news]?
Kupchak:I'm not surprised. The surprising part of this is that he made the announcement today. My understanding all along was that this was going to be his last year. Certainly there's been speculation and this puts an end to any speculation that he may come back for another year. But it was my understanding all along.
Kupchak: We didn't make it any easier for him with the group we have on the court. And that's not to say that they're not a talented group of players, but they're certainly young and unaccomplished.
Awkward having Kobe and the young players -- that balance?
Kupchak:It is awkward. It's awkward, but there was really no other way to go about it. When you have a player of Kobe's caliber that wants to continue to play, and you think he can play at a high level, you're going to let him play until he no longer wants to play. Yet it's clear that we had to begin the process to rebuild the team. Now we were hopeful that we would get off to a better start this year. We think we added a couple veterans, along with a bunch of young players, and I thought we'd be better than two wins into the season. That's not to say that we'd be on pace to win 50 or 60 games. But I thought we'd be a little bit better. But clearly we're not playing at the kind of level that a player of Kobe's age and experience finds challenging.
[It's] kind of like, there's no light at the end of the tunnel. I'm not surprised that he would make the announcement now. I think the game will be easier for him now. I think he'll be able to enjoy the rest of the season. We haven't had a chance to huddle up to see if we'll use him any differently in terms of minutes. I don't think that's something that's going to be decided today. But since he has made it clear [that] this is the last season for him, I think it will be more enjoyable. I think people will appreciate what he's accomplished, not only in our building, which has always been [filled] with loads of love, but I think more so on the road.
Want him to change his approach and not be so shot-heavy?
Kupchak: I gave up hoping he would change his approach like 15, 18 years ago. He is what he is, and I'm thankful for it.
[When did you] find out the news?
Kupchak: This afternoon. My son is a freshman in college right now. He's going to be 20 and he was born on the night of Kobe's first game. So I did not see Kobe's first game. So that kind of puts it in perspective. Twenty years. I have a son who's a freshman in college, and that's how long he's been playing.
What has he meant to the Lakers?
Kupchak: It is impossible for me to sit here and describe what he's meant. Five championships, 20 years, 17 All-Star Games. MVP trophy. I've watched him get hurt, play hurt. We've watched the last three years with serious injuries [and] having to come back. Most players would not come back. So it's hard to describe in two or three minutes. But he's a winner. And he came into this league with an unprecedented desire to compete and get better and be the best, and he remains that exact same person today, and that's with the good and the bad that come with it. But he remains that exact same person.
Did you think it would be this hard?
Kupchak: When he tore his Achilles, it took me completely by surprise. In fact, I thought it was a sprained ankle. ... Until John Black came to me and he's walking to the locker room, I thought it was a sprained ankle. And he was 35, 34 years old then. So it's not that surprising to think after a serious injury at 35 years old. Your body has a way of compensating or under-compensating -- if you hurt this leg, then you lean more that way and now that leg gets hurt and so forth and so on ... at least this is what [Lakers trainer] Gary Vitti tells me. So it's not that surprising that one injury would lead to another. Inactivity for half a year, then come back -- there's no way to duplicate an NBA game. And he's 36, 37. How surprising can it be?
Watching him over the past 15 games?
Kupchak: Like everybody else, I go back and forth. I talk to Kobe about it and he says it's timing and getting my legs under me and conditioning, getting used to playing with different players. And I buy in. Then I watch the games on TV and I read the paper and I remind myself that he's 37 years old, and maybe it's more than that. So I go back and forth on it.
What's his role for the rest of the season?
Kupchak: Not sure yet. Once again, this is something that was brought to my attention late this afternoon, and I have not discussed it with ownership or our coaches yet. I would hope that he has more fun and appears less frustrated and also gets more appreciation. He'll get it at home, but on the road as well, because people will now have to recognize that this is the last year [of] watching one of the all-time greats.
Is it just common for athletes to have difficult endings?
Kupchak: I played 10 years and I was injured an awful lot. It was really, really hard to play even after 10 years. You've got to deal with nagging injuries or ice packs or treatments and aches or your body, [which] doesn't allow you to do what it once did. It's hard enough to do it after 10 years. It drove me, with a relatively average NBA career, to retire. After 20 years, it's just something that I can't comprehend. It's twice as long as most people play. I just can't imagine. In college, you pay 25-28 games. When he should have been a freshman in college, he played 90 games. When he should've been a sophomore in college, he played over 90 games. So not only has he played 20 years, but he's played a lot of minutes and an awful lot of games. And on top of that, you probably have to add at least two or three more seasons, or at least a season or two, due to playoffs and preseason games.
Was there a point when you realized that you couldn't put the team together like you want to send him out?
Kupchak: I'm not going to say I thought we could win 50 games this year; even 45 would be something on the upper end. If we got to the point where I felt we could win half our games, that would be a good season, and that was our expectation going into the season. This is a process with the roles as they are today and us drafting players who are 19 years old. It's a process. And you really can't hurry the process. We're trying to push it along. You really can't make it happen by snapping your fingers anymore, not that we ever did. I was hoping at least -- and I still am -- that we can reel off some games and make this season pretty competitive, but there were never expectations that this was going to be a season where, hey, we can win 50-55 games, Kobe, and you can play a small part.
What's Kobe's relationship with other players?
Kupchak: He is a mentor and he'll push. He leads by example. He always has. He may change, but he's never been the guy to put his arm around a player and slowly walk to the locker room. He's always been the guy that's barking a little bit more than putting his arm around [a player], kind of pushing behind, little bit more demonstrative. Everybody leads in their own way. But I know for a fact that every player in our locker room looks up to this guy and respects [him]. And who could not after 19 seasons of what he's accomplished?
LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott spoke at length to reporters on Sunday about Kobe Bryant's announcement that he will retire at the end of this season. Here are some of the highlights:
• Scott had talked before that he believed Bryant could play beyond this season, and he said he still believes that.
"I thought he probably had at least had another year in him," Scott said. "I know his purpose is to finish out this season and play. I don't know what he's thinking as far as playing well or getting back somewhere near to the level that he's accustomed to getting. I think when you decide this is it, you also come to grips that you're not the same player that you used to be."
• Scott hadn't sensed this decision was coming and that Bryant didn't give him any explanation why, but the coach said Bryant seemed calm when informing him about it.
"It was so matter of fact and it was so at peace, which, after I thought about it, I felt better about that. It wasn't like he was agonizing over it or anything. He was just like, 'Yeah, I'm announcing I'm retiring.' He just kind of went on from there."
Scott added, "I think even as competitive as he is, and other players that have been in his position or somewhere close, they pretty much know when their time is there. When he said that to me, I was shocked, but I also knew he knew it was time."
• Scott said he doesn't want Bryant's role to change much in these final games: "I still want him to go out on a very positive note. And I think there's a part of me that feels that he's still going to have those glimmers of having some of the games that I know he's capable of having. I don't know how many that may be or how few it may be. But I think that's still the hope that I have."
• Mentoring the Lakers' young players is also a priority, Scott said.
"I just want him to mentor these guys a little bit more, on the court and off the court, because these are still a bunch of puppies," Scott said. "I just hope they understand who they've been around for the last couple months and try to spend as much time with him as possible these next six months, seven months or whatever the case may be and try to pick his brain as much as possible."
Scott later added, "What I want from Kobe is basically his last game be able to walk off the court and wave to all the fans and be able to go into the locker room standing up."
• On what he'll remember about Kobe, Scott said: "Everything. I can go all the way back to when he was this young guy out there just shooting in the dark at the Forum before the lights came on, before practice was 2-3 hours away, to this point where he's still at the practice facility 2-3 hours before everybody else getting shots up. I'll have great memories of spending a lot of time with him as a rookie and then getting a chance to spend his last years as a basketball player."
• Scott on it being hard to accept Bryant's acknowledging he's not the player he used to be: "Oh, absolutely. I witnessed an 18-year-old that came into this league that told me two months after we started the season, when I asked him what he wanted to be in this league, he told me the best. And I saw that come to light for a long period of time. So, yeah, it's hard to just kind of see guys, especially somebody that you care about."
The formality of Kobe Bryant announcing this season will indeed be his last sent ticket prices skyrocketing Sunday night. The announcement, published in the form of a poem on The Players' Tribune website, injected millions of dollars into the resale ticket market across the country.
"Within 10 minutes of Kobe's announcement, we had thousands of inquiries and sales," said Harris Rosner, owner of Los Angeles-based VIP Tickets.
"This is definitely bigger than a guy like [Derek] Jeter and it's bigger than [Michael] Jordan in the sense that Jordan was always so wishy-washy no one ever knew if it would really be the end," said Patrick Ryan, co-owner of Houston-based ticket brokerage, The Ticket Experience.
The cheapest ticket to Tuesday night's game in Philadelphia between the Los Angeles Lakers and the 76ers, two teams with no more than three wins between them in 34 tries, tripled to $60 in minutes. Bryant was born in Philadelphia, lived for several years in Italy and then returned to Pennsylvania, where he played high school ball.
Ryan's company took the inventory it had been selling of all Lakers road games to wait for the market to settle. But those who kept tickets on sale in the hours after the announcement saw a brisk rise in interest and transactions.
"I had it priced as my second-highest game of the year after Golden State," said Mark Klang of Amazing Tickets in Cleveland, which sells Cavs tickets. "But things were really slow."
Then the announcement came, and all of the sudden, Klang started getting calls about the Feb. 10 game against the Lakers.
"I think I've sold almost as many seats to this game as I sold since the day the schedule first came out," Klang said.
Klang said he didn't raise prices, but with the Lakers at 2-13, he was about to lower them.
Ryan said some brokers started to push prices up earlier in the month when Kobe Bryant's wife, Vanessa, showed up to Madison Square Garden to see him play against the Knicks. Resale prices have already jumped 25 to 30 percent from that mark, and Ryan said that in some markets, Bryant's retirement will warrant another uptick of 50 to 100 percent.
"He put on a show in a lot of these cities, and his saying this is his last allows teams and fans to say goodbye," Ryan said.
For tickets not already sold, some brokers expect teams to include the game against the Lakers to help sell five- to 10-game ticket packages, which will allow teams to cash in on the demand.
In the two hours after Bryant's announcement, the cheapest ticket to what would be his final game -- April 13 versus the Utah Jazz
Just five months remain in Kobe's career, so this seems like a good time to ask about where he ranks among the all-time greats. In particular, is he one of the 10 best to play the game?
A close reading of the facts suggests the answer is no. As remarkable as his career has been, Bryant's résumé can't quite compare to that of the league's inner-circle Hall of Famers.
Bryant is the first guard to play 20 NBA seasons, and the first to play 20 seasons with one franchise. He'll be remembered at his peak as a great scorer, tenacious defender and a winner.
Bryant won five NBA titles, is a 17-time All-Star (second-most selections, trailing only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's 19) and an 11-time first-team All-NBA selection (tied with Karl Malone for most all-time).
He'll retire as the third-leading scorer in NBA history in terms of career points. Where he'll rank in points per game (currently 11th at 25.3) will depend on how he finishes this season.
Bryant was not shy to shoot. He ranks as the NBA's all-time leader in missed shots.
Bryant currently ranks 14th all-time in steals with 1,894. He's averaging a steal per game, so reaching 2,000 might be a challenge. If he did it, he'd be the 12th player in NBA history to record 2,000 steals.
Bryant is tied for the most titles in Lakers history. The other players to win five since the team moved to Los Angeles from Minnesota are Derek Fisher, Michael Cooper, Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson.
Kobe or Duncan?
Bryant came into the NBA a year ahead Duncan and the two were among the premier players of their era. Each won five NBA titles and was named to at least 15 All-NBA teams. Duncan has a slight edge in all-defensive selections (15-12) and regular season/NBA Finals MVP awards (5-3). Bryant has been named to two more All-Star teams (17-15).