Kobe Bryant’s Injury Casts Large Shadow as Lakers Head into Uncertain Offseason

If Kobe Bryant's Sunday plans were to catch a Hollywood horror film, then he chose the perfect theatre for an afternoon matinee.

The injured guard was at Staples Center Sunday for the Los Angeles Lakers’ Game 4 playoff matchup against the San Antonio Spurs. What Bryant saw was a microcosm of what the team had become in his absence.

The Lakers were bludgeoned, 103-82, on their home floor, a loss that completed a San Antonio sweep. Los Angeles turned the ball over 21 times, helping the Spurs to 24 points before a crowd equal parts disgusted and resigned to the efforts of this motley crew.

In fact, it was only Bryant’s appearance—coming with a little less than nine minutes remaining in the game—that drew applause from Lakers fans on Sunday. No matter how poorly their team was doing, Lakers fans know when to pay honor to their fallen hero. 

Perhaps more notable was the “coincidental” timing of Bryant’s public arrival. It came less than a minute after Dwight Howard, he of five turnovers and exactly two shot attempts in 21 minutes, received his second technical foul. As Howard exited through the tunnel, his ire was struck by Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak. The 27-year-old center snapped and had to be escorted back to the locker room.

No one knows what was said between the two, and we may never. For all we know, Kupchak could have said something about Dwight’s mother (we highly doubt it). 

But the symmetry between Howard’s jeered exit and Bryant’s ballyhooed arrival on crutches is jarring. It was the story of the fallen hero and the reviled bully. The petulant child taking his ball and going home while the wounded warrior descended to give the villagers hope. 

Speaking after the game, Howard categorized his first season with the Lakers as a "nightmare," according to Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. ...

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