Thursday, April 26, 2012
Updated: April 27, 6:25 PM ET
Kobe Bryant sits; Kevin Durant wins
By Dave McMenamin
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Kobe Bryant sat out the Los Angeles Lakers' regular-season finale on Thursday against the Sacramento Kings and conceded the chance to catch Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant for the NBA scoring title.
The Kings won the game 113-96.
Bryant, averaging 27.86 points per game, would have needed 38 points to catch Durant and win the title outright. Durant finished the regular season averaging 28.03 points per game.
"It's not a challenge for me to score 38 points, you know? If that's the benchmark, that's all you need to do, that's not really hard to do that," Bryant told ESPNLosAngeles.com after beating his teammates in a raucous half-court shot competition at shootaround on Thursday.
"The biggest thing, most important thing for me is setting the tone for our team. Our young guys have been very supportive for us all year and it's important for them to get out and perform as well, for us to be there to support them.
"The scoring title is not that important. We know I can do it. We know I can go out and score 38 points. The most important thing is sending the right message to the group, which is putting a championship above all else. That means rest. That means letting other guys play. That means us getting ready for Sunday [for the playoff opener]."
Lakers coach Mike Brown said it was a simple decision to sit Bryant, but the two did have a brief conversation about it at shootaround.
"Just now I asked him, 'How old would you have been for you to want to play in this game?' and he said he wouldn't have," Brown said. "He said he was  and playing against Dallas and he had 62 [points] and Dallas had 61 after three quarters and he said Phil [Jackson] asked him if he wanted to come back in and he told Phil, 'No.' So, I guess contrary to what everybody probably, possibly thinks about him in that [capacity], that's not what he's all about even though he could go out and get 40 tonight. ... He's capable of getting 40 any given night."
The entire Big Three for the Lakers had the night off, as Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol joined Bryant on the bench.
Lakers coach Mike Brown went with a starting lineup of Ramon Sessions, Steve Blake, Devin Ebanks, Jordan Hill and Josh McRoberts against the Kings.
Sessions played despite his left shoulder injury.
"It's not a concern from our medical staff," Brown said of Sessions' status.