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Kobe Concedes Scoring Title, Lakers Lose to Kings (4.26.12)
Well it looks like Kobe truly didn't care about the scoring title. Kobe, along with Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, sat out the final game of the season against the lowly Sacramento Kings.
Needing 38 points to surpass Kevin Durant in the scoring title, Kobe decided to rest up for Sunday's game one matchup against the Denver Nuggets. As much as I, along with many Lakers fans, wanted to see Kobe go for the scoring title, he probably did the right thing by sitting out and conceding the scoring title to Kevin Durant. The more rest on Kobe's legs, along with Drew and Pau, the better for a playoff push.
However, I must admit, I was disappointed to see Kobe sitting. Kobe is a supreme competitor, and it just seemed a bit odd to see him healthy and sitting on the bench. Kobe plays through just about everything, but rest prevailed over individual accolades. Michael Jordan has great stories of his over-competitive, even compulsive, desire to win. Such stories include an infamous quote from Michael's college roommate at North Carolina. Buzz Peterson stated, "Michael hates to lose. Play cards with him and you'll have to stay until he wins, even if it takes all night." Even crazier is the fact that Michael visited Buzz's home in North Carolina while they were still in college. Michael and Buzz's mother began playing a game of cards, and Michael actually attempted to cheat while the mother took a bathroom break. Such competitive drive is what made Michael Jordan so dominant. Do you think he would have sat out a meaningless game if he had the chance to get the scoring title? Michael always wanted to distance himself from everyone else in the NBA. He famously destroyed Clyde Drexler in the 92 finals after critics began talking up Clyde's abilities. Clyde was definitely the second best shooting guard in the 91-92 season, but Michael made sure to show just how big of a gap there was between first and second. Michael averaged 35.8 points along with 6.5 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game. Drexler put up 24.8, 5.3, and 7.8. The Bulls won in six and no one dared mention Jordan and Drexler in the same sentence again.
While Kobe is a bit old to be involved in individual battles with his peers, it would have been great to see him stick it to Durant and take the scoring title. Kobe held it all year, until Durant swooped it in OKC's last three games of the season. As an intelligent basketball mind, I am not going to question Kobe's decision or his competitive desire, but I would have preferred a different outcome. If Kobe had played, it would have been funny to see him gun for 38 while flanked by the likes of Darius Morris, Christian Eyenga, Devin Ebanks, Jordan Hill, Andrew Goudelock, Josh McRoberts, Troy Murphy, and the veterans, Blake and Sessions. If the core guys had not decided to sit, I'm sure Kobe would have played and he would have went for it. Without Pau and Andrew out there, it just would have seemed selfish. Kobe touched on that aspect, as well as the team's goal for a championship, stating, "You have to send that message. That's what this season is about. That's what we're about as a team. It's not about the individual goals. You have to put the team goals ahead of it." Kobe understands the goal of the team, and if he ends up winning that sixth ring, no one will care about the fact that he missed out on the scoring title.
So with Kobe, Pau, and Andrew out, how was the game? Well, the Lakers lost 96-113, as DeMarcus Cousins came one rebound shy of a 20-20 game, dropping 23 points and grabbing 19 rebounds. The Lakers and Kings both had nothing to play for, but the game had some entertaining moments. The Lakers treated the game as a night to get Ramon Sessions back on track. Ramon has been in a mini slump in his past couple of games. In the first quarter, sideline reporter, Mike Trudell, reported, "Well I wanna talk about Ramon Sessions because it was a focus of Mike Brown to get him going a little bit before we get into the playoffs. You know, he hasn't scored in double digits other than just a ten point game against the Spurs on the road, and it's something that maybe has a little bit to do with aggressiveness." Sessions answered the request of the coaching staff, dropping 14 points on 6-13 shooting, with 4 assists, 3 rebounds, but also 3 turnovers. 14 points isn't much, but Sessions' efficiency was noteworthy, and Sessions attacked the basket hard on multiple occasions. Sessions gives the Lakers their first point guard since Nick Van Exel who can attack the rim and finish strong. This component will be huge in the playoffs and an aggressive Sessions can be a big difference maker.