Kobe Bryant's retirement tour is now just five games and seven days away from its climax.
The realisation that one of the game's all-time greats is on the home straight of his storied career is finally setting in. Opportunities to see the five-time NBA champion are now few and far between, but coach Byron Scott is hoping to make sure his final one is his best.
Speaking before last night's first clash of two with the L.A Clippers, Scott told the OC Register that the Lakers are carefully handling the 18-time All-Star's minutes so he can have the best possible chance to go out with a bang against the Utah Jazz in his final NBA game.
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“That finale is coming closer and closer each day,” Scott said. “I think we all can see it. Come the 13th, I want him to play that game 30-plus minutes, go out there and enjoy it.”
Long-time rival coach Doc Rivers - now leading the Clippers - will be happy to see the Black Mamba call it a day on April 13 purely for personal reasons.
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“I’ll be very happy when Kobe retires,” Rivers said on Sunday. “He’s inflicted pain on me, personally.”
Rivers is referring, of course, to the NBA Finals in 2010 where the Lakers defeated his Boston Celtics and Bryant picked up the Finals MVP award.
Although he has a clear and professional respect for the retiring great, Rivers asserts he knows the divide between the two.
“I love Kobe, but I’d never cheer for him to win,” Rivers said. “I was always the opponent and have been an opponent throughout his career. I never get that skewed.”
When pressed by a reporter on whether an injury to center Kendrick Perkins back in 2010 stole the Championship away from the Celtics, Rivers refused to taint the purple and gold's victory.
Rivers did manage to get the better of Bryant and co. in the 2008 finals, but he passed on the opportunity to belittle their 2010 victory.
“I don’t want to take that away [from the Lakers]. They won it and part of winning it is health.”
“It took me two or three years to finally say that and it’s very hurtful, but you have to give them the credit. They won the title.”
With an 81-103 blowout loss to city rivals in the books, the Lakers and Clippers meet once more at the Staples Center this evening and Rivers believes a player as special as Kobe deserves all the attention he is getting.
“It’s nice that he’s going out his way and he deserves it,” Rivers said. “I don’t think a lot of people get to. Most bad players never get to. They’re told to go home.”