LOS ANGELES: Flames shot from the top of the backboard, and laser beams danced around the crowd. It wasn’t Kobe Bryant’s last game at Staples Center, just his last as a visitor.
The pyrotechnics, however, were for the Clippers starters. Bryant’s farewell was modest, to say the least, in contrast to what Bryant can expect when Staples Center’s longest-tenured tenant plays his final home game on April13 against the Utah Jazz.
Paul Pierce and Chris Paul spoke briefly on a video tribute for Bryant, whose Lakers face the Clippers again Wednesday , but this time as the designated home team.
Bryant, for the most part, was received warmly by Clippers fans. He was treated to the now-standard chants of “M-V-P!” even as he missed his first eight shots before finishing with six points on 2-of-12 shooting.
Even superfan Clipper Darrell, the famously obnoxious king of jeers, drew a smile and a salute from Bryant on the bench when he shouted, “Kobe, I love you.”
The 22 minutes Bryant played marked a relatively brief appearance after he logged 33 minutes Sunday against the Boston Celtics. Coach Byron Scott said earlier Tuesday he likely would limit Bryant’s minutes in the designated “road game” so he could play more in front of Lakers fans Wednesday.
“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.”
Clippers coach Doc Rivers echoed comments he made Sunday, when he said he would not be at all sad to see Bryant retire.
“I’ll be very happy when Kobe retires,” Rivers said Sunday. “He’s inflicted pain on me, personally.”
The message Tuesday was no different.
“I love Kobe but I’d never cheer for him to win,” said Rivers, who coached the Celtics against Bryant in the 2008 and 2010 NBA Finals. “I was always the opponent and have been an opponent throughout his career. I never get that skewed.”
Rivers passed on an opportunity to chalk up the Celtics’ 2010 loss to an injury to center Kendrick Perkins, saying, “I don’t want to take that away (from the Lakers). They won it and part of winning it is health.”
He added: “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.”
Rivers added that Bryant “should be the focus” of the two games against the Clippers this week.
“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.”