They still have Nick Young.
"Just give me the ball and get out of the way," the outspoken reserve guard said with a laugh after practice Monday, not long after the team announced that Bryant will have surgery Wednesday morning to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder.
A timetable for Bryant's recovery won't be known until after the procedure, but Lakers coach Byron Scott said that "we know Kobe is probably not going to play" again this season.
While Scott said he has “no idea” who will step up to help fill the void left by Bryant, and didn’t mention who would start in place of Bryant, no doubt more is expected of Young, who averages 14.1 points per game, second among Lakers players to Bryant’s 22.3.
"It’s a big responsibility," Young said. "I’ve got to go out there and play to the best of my abilities every night."
Young spoke after apparently suffering a sprained ankle during practice when guard Jordan Clarkson stepped on his foot. Young said his ankle was "throbbing, but I’ll be all right." He said he wasn't sure if he'd play Tuesday against the Washington Wizards.
However, Young's mention of "responsibility" came at an interesting time. The Lakers guard was benched in the second half of Sunday's loss to the Houston Rockets for what Scott described as a lack of effort.
"The message I was sending [Sunday] night was, 'You basically didn’t look like you wanted to play,'" Scott said. "'You weren't defending. You were just standing around.' He was throwing the ball all over the place. So I chose not to play him, because if you look disinterested, with body language and things like that, to me you don’t want to play."
Young, who didn't speak to reporters after Sunday's game, discounted the notion that he didn't want to be out there.
"There ain’t a day go by that I don’t want to be out there on the court," Young said. "I love being here, love playing basketball. I get a joy out of playing and seeing the fans, hearing them chant ‘Swaggy P.’ That’s what drives me. [Scott] sees what he sees. I’m not in no situation to go back and forth with the coach because I would never play. That’s his judgment."
On being benched, Young said, "It was very frustrating. It just brought back some old memories, like being a rookie. It happens. I guess [Scott] wants the best for me. I came in [Monday] with the mindset of not having no negative energy. ... I think I’ll be all right."
Young also admitted that the Lakers' losing ways have affected him. The team has lost a season-high eight straight games, their longest losing streak since losing eight in a row in March 2005.
"We’ve only won 12 games this year," Young said. "Losing can catch up to you. I’m still a human being. I’m still going out there trying to fight. At the same time, you get tired of getting beat up."
Young said he and Scott talked about his demeanor, and Young stressed that he has to do a better job when being double-teamed by defenders, which he said he expects even more now that Bryant is out.
"It’s tough, but we’ve got to go out there and still fight," Young said. "We’ve still got to give fans a show. It’s a chance for other people to step up now. There’s a lot of players with contracts. Even though it’s tough for Kobe, it’s a blessing in disguise for other people out there to get a chance. They’ve just got to take full advantage of it."
Scott told Bryant that he would pray for him.
“He sounded good,” Scott said. “I probably sounded worse than he did.”
Not long after, it was announced that the 36-year-old Bryant would have surgery Wednesday morning to repair a torn rotator cuff that he suffered last week in a loss to New Orleans. A timetable for the 19-year veteran’s recovery won't be known until after the procedure, though ESPN reported Friday that Bryant is expected to miss the remainder of the season.
Either way, Scott isn’t holding his breath.
“Basically what we’ve been doing the last couple games is what we’re probably going to be doing for the rest of the year, now that we know Kobe is probably not going to play,” Scott said.
But Scott firmly believes that Bryant, who has one year left on his contract with the Lakers, will be back.
“I don’t see Kobe as the type of guy that wants to leave his legacy on these terms,” Scott said. “I think he wants to go out on his own terms.”
Lakers forward Carlos Boozer agreed.
“If anybody can come back from it, it’s Kobe,” Boozer said. “He attacks his rehab. He’s a monster with a work ethic. That’s why we all know he’s the player he is. I don’t expect anything different from Kobe.”
Lakers guard Nick Young recalled the game at New Orleans when Bryant apparently suffered his injury on a third-quarter driving baseline two-handed dunk.
Bryant then played almost entirely left-handed for the rest of the night.
“I knew something was wrong with him,” Young said. “He was doing everything with his left hand, shooting shots, fadeaways.
“At the same time, I thought it was Kobe being Kobe. I didn’t think he was going to have a tear or something. We’ll see what happens.”
Knowing that Bryant almost certainly won’t be back this season, Scott reflected on what Bryant achieved during the 2014-15 campaign after coming back from Achilles and knee injuries that ended his previous two seasons, respectively.
“I think he’s done everything that you can possibly do in this league,” Scott said. “I think at times we don’t appreciate all the stuff that he’s been able to accomplish, how tough he is and all the injuries that he’s played with, to be able to come back the way he’s come back.”
Boozer recalled training camp and how Bryant ran “suicide” running drills with the team every day and helped veterans and rookies alike.
“He had a great year," Boozer said. "Was coming out real aggressive to start. Then he started trusting us more and getting us involved. That’s the thing about Kobe: He can play different styles. He can score 81, or he can have 17 assists. That’s the great thing about his game. He can adjust. He’s that good, especially at this level.
“I think he had a great season. We didn’t get many wins this season. I don’t know if it’s over, but with the surgery, it’s probably over for this year. ... I feel bad for him.”
Countless times throughout his career, Dirk Nowitzki has arrived at his home after a game at the American Airlines Center, plopped down on the couch and scrolled through the television listings to find the Los Angeles Lakers game in time to watch Kobe Bryant perform in crunch time.
That won’t be possible again until next season. The Lakers announced Monday afternoon that, as expected, Bryant will undergo surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder.
“Disappointing,” Nowitzki said of the news that a serious injury will end Bryant’s season prematurely for the third consecutive campaign. “I think he worked extremely hard to get back to the point where he’s fun to watch again. After an Achilles tear, kind of everybody said they’re not sure if he’s going to come back, and he worked his butt off like he has his entire career and gets to a point where he scores again and is fun to watch. And now another injury happens.
“It’s tough, but he’s a fighter. He’ll probably be back from that as well.”
As Bryant’s body betrays him, it’s hard not to wonder about Nowitzki’s basketball mortality.
They are a couple of NBA legends, separated by four spots on the all-time scoring list and 2 months of age, who are in their golden years. Bryant is one of only three active players who has logged more career minutes than Nowitzki.
Nowitzki has been fortunate in his fight against Father Time. He’s managed to avoid major injuries throughout his career. The only instance of Nowitzki missing extended time occurred in 2012-13, when he sat out most of the first two months of the season after undergoing relatively minor arthroscopic knee surgery in October.
Nowitzki’s good health isn’t all due to luck. There’s a lot of work that goes into it, by Nowitzki and the Mavs’ medical and conditioning staffs. The Mavs have made managing his minutes a priority for several years, trimming them to under 30 per game this season, significantly fewer than Bryant was logging for the Lakers. Dallas also has managed to reduce the stress of Nowitzki’s minutes, surrounding him with players who are capable of lessening the burden on him, something the Lakers failed to do for Bryant last summer.
And Nowitzki’s game is certainly better-suited for success at an advanced age.
“You don’t see Dirk doing a whole lot of reverse jams,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban said. “Dirk doesn’t go up for an alley-oop. He goes up for an alley-under and worries about tripping over the line."
Nevertheless, Bryant’s problems are a painful reminder of how difficult it is for even the greatest to keep going into their mid-30s and beyond.
“You can’t take anything for granted in this league as you get older,” Nowitzki said. “You want to compete every night. You want to have fun doing it. You don’t want to get up every morning and have to fight to go to work, fight to stay out there. That’s not how I ever looked at basketball. As long as I feel good and I don’t have to take a bunch of pills to play … That’s not how I look at the game. It’s supposed to be fun.”
Kind of like sitting on the couch for Kobe time.
Bryant seriously aggravated a lingering shoulder ache while dunking last week in New Orleans. The star guard and the Lakers decided Monday on surgery, which typically requires several months of rehabilitation.
The Lakers will announce a timetable for Bryant's recovery after surgery, but coach Byron Scott anticipates losing the third-leading scorer in NBA history for the rest of the year.
"Kobe is probably not going to play" again this season, Scott said.
"We all know how tough he is," Scott added after Monday's practice. "He's a trooper, so we pray for him that his return will be sooner rather than later."
The 36-year-old Bryant's torn rotator cuff is likely his third straight season-ending injury. He missed the 2013 playoffs with a torn Achilles tendon, and he played just six games last season before breaking a bone near his left knee. His famously resilient body has finally worn down from the accumulated grind of nearly two decades and several lengthy postseasons with the Lakers, including five NBA title runs.
After returning at nearly full strength in training camp, Bryant sat out eight games to rest in the past month and played on a strict minutes limit. He still dealt with assorted aches and setbacks before he injured his shoulder.
Bryant met with Neal ElAttrache of the Kerlan Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic on Monday, determining his injury's extent and deciding on surgery. He is averaging 22.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists in 35 games this season, but shooting a career-worst 37.3 percent in a wildly inconsistent season.
The Lakers reacted to the news with disappointment and respect for Bryant, who was selected to the All-Star Game for the 17th time last week.
"Kobe is a warrior," Lakers forward Carlos Boozer
"That's true," Bryant told the Post. "A long time ago? Yeah."
Said Bryant, "I've always been very big on having mentors, on having muses, and I've been really, really big on that, being around guys who have done it before and done it at a high level and always tried to pick their brains and always tried to absorb knowledge. Obviously, being in that situation [with the Wizards], it would've helped having to be around him every day and so on."
A Bryant-Jordan scenario as teammates all fell apart when then-Wizards owner Abe Pollin parted ways with Jordan in 2003, a year before Bryant became a free agent.
"We would've put together a great team and we would've won championships," Bryant told The Post.
Bryant also said a key reason he wanted to leave L.A. was his well-known feud with then-teammate Shaquille O'Neal, a three-time Finals MVP from 2000-02.
But McHale didn't seem so sure the 36-year-old Bryant would be able to rebound from another potential season-ending injury, this time a torn rotator cuff in Bryant's right shoulder suffered last week in a loss at New Orleans.
"Eventually, this catches up to you, man," McHale said Sunday before the Rockets beat the Lakers 99-87 at Staples Center. "Kobe's a great player, but I've seen other great players. When your time's up, your time's up, man. It's too bad, but it happens to everybody.
"I wish him all the best. I've always admired him. I think he's a hell of a competitor, but everything comes to an end. In my case, my body just said, 'You weren't playing anymore,' and I said, 'OK.' "
Bryant was expected to decide as early as Monday whether to have shoulder surgery. If it causes him to miss the rest of the season, it will mark his third straight season ended early by injuries. Achilles and knee injuries ended his previous two seasons prematurely.
"I'm thankful I played," the Los Angeles Lakers reserve point guard said Sunday after a 99-87 loss to the Houston Rockets at Staples Center.
"A DNP will change your perspective on things."
Lin was referring to Friday, when he was a DNP-CD (did not play - coach's decision) in a road loss to the San Antonio Spurs, his first healthy scratch since Feb. 2, 2012, even before "Linsanity."
Both before the game and after, Lin reflected on his roller-coaster season and more.
"In terms of my career, the only thing that's really been consistent is the amount of inconsistency that I've had in my life," Lin said. "I've gone from getting cut to the D-League to starting to playing heavy minutes -- a different role every week, it seems like. I've just got to keep trying to stay aggressive when I get out there -- if I get out there."
His healthy scratch in San Antonio was disheartening, of course.
"I'm human," he said. "I've got emotions, too. I show up and do my best to play and work hard and stuff, but it definitely hurts. It's discouraging sometimes. It's disappointing. All those emotions."
Lin and Lakers coach Byron Scott chatted Sunday morning about Lin's role, and it was the same message Scott has said all season: He wants consistency.
"The effort has been great," Scott said. "That hasn't been a problem with Jeremy. It's just a matter of being consistent each and every night, trying to get into a flow each and every night. That's what we talked about again today."
Lin has gone up and down more than an elevator since joining the Lakers.
He has been a constant target of praise and criticism from Scott and Kobe Bryant.
He has been moved from the starting unit to the bench.
He has gone from second-string point guard to third-string point guard, behind Ronnie Price and rookie Jordan Clarkson
And he has gone from playing heavy minutes to not playing at all, such as Friday.
"The only thing that you can really get used to is the fact that you don't know what's coming next," Lin said. "That's kind of been true this whole season."
None of it is fun, mind you, and Lin hasn't looked happy much if at all this season, even though he has done his best to present himself as upbeat.
Is Lin trying to use his minutes to make his case that he deserves more?
"No, we've been down this road before," he said with a laugh. "[Sunday night], I was just enjoying the game."
He repeated that message a few times.
"I was out there having fun just attacking and really just enjoying the experience of getting to play team basketball -- try to get everybody involved and do the best we can," he said. "It was fun. Losing is not fun, but just playing again is fun."
And that's what the season has been reduced to for Jeremy Lin.
He's just trying to have fun in a situation, and in a season, that is anything but fun.
The Lakers' reserve guard was then a no-show after the Lakers' 99-87 loss to Houston, leaving without speaking to reporters after going scoreless for the first time for the Lakers in eight minutes of playing time -- his fewest as a Laker.
It was an unusual move for the jovial Young in avoiding the media after the game, as "Swaggy P" relishes the chance to provide colorful quotes.
Either way, Scott said he wasn't happy with Young's effort.
"It looked to me that he didn't want to be here," Scott said.
"At halftime, we showed stuff on the tape where he was guarding [Houston swingman Corey] Brewer in the corner. I asked [Young], 'What were you thinking on his play?' The answer he gave me, I couldn't figure it out. So I just felt with his body language that he didn't want to play tonight, so I chose not to play him."
The Lakers are scheduled to practice Monday, when Young will likely be available to address his benching.
Harden hit four 3-pointers, and the NBA's leading scorer added five assists in the Rockets' third victory in four games.
Josh Smith and Jason Terry had 11 points apiece as Houston cruised to its fourth straight road victory over the Lakers even without Dwight Howard, who sat out after injuring his right ankle two days ago.
Carlos Boozer scored 18 points for the Lakers, who are on their longest losing streak in nearly 10 years.
The Lakers weren't terribly competitive until the fourth quarter of their latest game without Kobe Bryant, who could be out for the season.
Yes, Staples Center offered pretty much nothing worth watching Sunday night in a 99-87 victory by the Houston Rockets. Even Rockets fans probably tuned out after their team had doubled up the Los Angeles Lakers after the first quarter (30-15).
Then again, even the Rockets looked bored most of the night, just watching and waiting for the seconds to tick away in a game that they led by as many as 25 points.
The Lakers suffered their season-high eighth straight loss, their longest skid since they dropped eight in a row from March 14 to 27 in 2005. They sit at 12-33.
Bryant was absent with a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, and Howard was out with a sprained ankle, which meant no scuffles between the ex-teammates who had a sour relationship at best.
Player of the game: L.A. native James Harden barbecued the Lakers, though some of his shots were more well-contested during pregame warm-ups than in the actual game. The Rockets' star guard finished with 37 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists, and though he technically broke a sweat, it seemed like he wasn't trying that hard all night.
Lin in action: Jeremy Lin came off the bench in the first quarter, his first action after receiving a DNP-CD (did not play -- coach's decision) Friday at San Antonio, his first healthy scratch since Feb. 2, 2012. He finished with 14 points on 2-of-9 shooting to go along with six assists in 28 minutes.
Swaggy P in the doghouse: Lakers coach Byron Scott benched Nick Young in the second half. Young played just nine scoreless minutes all told, missing both of his field goal attempts.
Lone bright spot: Carlos Boozer provided 18 points and 11 rebounds off the bench for the Lakers. There wasn't much else that the Lakers did worth mentioning.
LOS ANGELES -- It's fitting that Kobe Bryant wanted to pretend everything was OK one last time before losing a third consecutive year to a season-ending injury. Pretending -- that's what this entire season has been for Bryant and the Lakers. Because that's really the only way you get through a season like this with your spirit intact.
And so after playing with the injury for a few minutes Wednesday night in New Orleans and hoisting some off-hand shots, Kobe shrugged and said he wasn't "that concerned about" what proved to be a completely torn rotator cuff in his right, shooting shoulder. He'd played with a torn labrum once, he said. No biggie. Later that night, when I reached out to check on the severity of the injury that had him shooting and playing left-handed, he laughed and said, "Why? God gave us two hands."
It was classic Kobe Bryant. Forever in his armor. He probably already knew what was coming next. What daylight would bring. He'd partially torn the rotator cuff in the preseason and had been managing the injury all along. This was obviously different. But what difference would another night make? Another night of believing that he could talk himself past any injury. Of convincing himself that willpower and work were enough to stave off the effects of age and time and 19 years of NBA pounding.
The world would know soon enough that his season was over. Why not save one more night and fight the inevitable break of dawn?
When he got home to Los Angeles, where each doctor he met with kept saying the same thing, he still needed to take a few more days to process it all.
Yes, this has been a long time coming. The more Kobe played this season, the worse he played. He was sore all over, with the sort of generalized pain that becomes a syndrome and then a downward spiral. But before he ended it by going under the knife, he wanted to exhaust all options.
That's always been Kobe. Never accept anything as it is, on the court or off of it. Believe there's a way, even if you're deluding yourself, and a path will appear.
But there was no getting around this reality. The only way to fix this injury was surgery. So when the time finally came to confirm the inevitable, there was sadness and relief.
It may have been fascinating to watch Kobe play on this awful Lakers team, but it was not fun. There were nights you marveled at him trying to carry the franchise as he once did on much springier, younger legs. There were other nights you cringed as he jacked up 20 or 30 shots and missed far too many.
But his talent, his insatiable competitiveness, his enormous id was lost on a team like this. The Lakers are going nowhere this season. They never really were. Steve Nash
A torn rotator cuff has, according to Lakers head coach Byron Scott, likely ended Kobe Bryant's season, making this the third consecutive season that Bryant has suffered a serious injury. His future, as well as the future of the Los Angeles Lakers, hangs in the balance. Here's a primer:
Bryant reportedly had been playing with a prior shoulder injury, which would indicate that this injury was probably months in the making (even if the actual tear happened on the play in question at New Orleans). On Tuesday it was announced that Bryant would be undergoing surgery on Wednesday.
Bryant is facing the reality of basketball mortality. It's not just that he's not talented enough to carry or will his team to victory anymore; it's also detrimental to his health. The wear and tear on a body that's seen a lot of miles is simply too great to overcome, regardless of work ethic and diligence.
Bryant himself seemed to acknowledge this in recent weeks before the injury, saying "the Kobe from five years ago could have picked up this team by himself ... physically, I can't do that."