Nobody expected the Los Angeles Lakers to be good coming into the regular season, but there were at least some positive narratives surrounding the team. Kobe Bryant returning to the court, Byron Scott coaching his former playing team, number 7 draft pick Julius Randle developing, even Jeremy Lin trying to recapture his former magic.
It almost all vanished in a 108-90 blowout loss to the Houston Rockets Tuesday night in the NBA’s opening night.
The Lakers shot just 35% from the field, 30% from beyond the arc, with only three players shooting higher than 40% from the field.
Bryant managed 19 points on just 6-17 shooting, showing little lift in his legs, and generally looking overmatched compared to the Rockets’ star shooting guard, James Harden, who totaled 32 points on the night.
The Lakers lost Steve Nash for the season last week, and his replacement, Lin, also looked tentative and overmatched, shooting 1-5 for the night. Lin’s back-up, Ronnie Price, shot 1-7.
The already somber mood took a nosedive in the fourth quarter when Julius Randle broke his right leg on a drive. Randle was one of the top prospects in the 2014 NBA Draft, the Lakers’ highest draft pick since taking James Worthy no. 1 in the 1982 draft. He’s expected to have surgery, and though there’s no official timetable to return, he’ll likely miss several months.
Later, out of frustration Kobe Bryant needlessly hacked Dwight Howard on a rebound attempt. The two got in each other’s face and had to be separated, both assessed technical fouls.
The cameras later caught Bryant calling Howard “soft.”
Howard did nothing wrong — he simply protected the ball on a rebound. Bryant initiated it and later looked petty in the midst of a blowout. After the game, he called the 28-year-old Howard a “teddy bear” and “a nice kid.”
It was a sad finish to a depressing night for the Lakers. They have held off on rebuilding for so long that they’re left with a sloppy roster with little talent, and now with Randle’s injury, little in the way of upside.
Get used to it — the Lakers play 19 more nationally televised games.
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