Editor's Note: Please give a warm welcome to Bryant Freese, our newest addition to the Silver Screen and Roll roster. Bryant is a lifelong Lakers fan who has previously written for the La Habra Journal, and we think he'll be a great addition to our team.
It's no secret Kobe Bryant has planned to play every game on the road where it's his last time competing in that city. But does that mean he should sit out games at Staples Center, in front of the home fans, so his body is rested and ready to play for opposing fans?
Since announcing his retirement Kobe has played 24 of 25 possible games on the road, with the one game he missed coming at Oklahoma City, where the Lakers will be playing another game. While at Staples Center, Bryant has played 17 of 29 games, sitting out the last two games against the Sacramento Kings and the Phoenix Suns before suiting up against the Memphis Grizzlies. All due to soreness in his right shoulder.
It was reported by Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News and several other members of the media that Bryant was planning to play against Phoenix Friday night. Just a couple hours later, news broke that he would be sitting out his sixth game out of the last 10, with all six of the absences coming at home.
It's understandable that Kobe would want to suit up in all of the road games, it's the last time those opposing fans will be able to see him play and he wants to show his appreciation. But playing 28 minutes in a back-to-back game against the Suns this late in the season might not be the greatest idea, seeing as how much he's struggled to perform every single night. As a Lakers fan (or at least a fan with tickets), all you can hope is that playing in a back-to-back game doesn't force him to sit out Friday's match up with the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center.
"I am enjoying it, I'm enjoying coming to these cities for the last time and competing, and getting a chance to say thank you," Bryant told the media Wednesday night after the loss to Phoenix (transcribed via TWC SportsNet). Why is playing in front of opposing fans more important than playing night-in and night-out to say thank you to the fans that have been supporting him for 20 years?
While Kobe may be thinking that fans in Los Angeles have had 20 years and 41 games a year to see him play, there are still many fans that have not had the luxury of going to a game to observe his legendary presence in person. Knowing this is the last year, many of those fans are purchasing tickets at an extremely inflated price for their one last chance to see Kobe Bryant play in person, only to find 60 percent of the time he isn't playing.
The fact that Kobe is willing to sacrifice home games for road games has to be upsetting for Lakers fans. It would be one thing if the team was to announce beforehand whether or not Kobe would be playing, but it's not. It's right at game time, leaving fans with nothing to do other than hoping and praying he is going to be in uniform.
It's coming down to the end of a disappointing season for the Lakers. After Tuesday night against Phoenix there are 11 games remaining and only seven left at Staples Center (including a Clippers home game). Other than watching the Lakers young core develop, a final chance to see Kobe has been the only bright spot for Laker fans in an otherwise miserable 15-56 season.
Fans hope Kobes' top priority is play playing in those seven home games, most importantly his final game on April 13th against the Utah Jazz. He undoubtedly needs to rest if he is going to be able to cross the finish line with his limbs intact, but home games in front of the Los Angeles fans at Staples Center need to be treated with the same importance as road games going down the final stretch of the season.
All stats per basketball reference. You can follow this author on Twitter @bryantfreese