The Los Angeles Lakers finish off their four-game road trip in the second game of a back-to-back against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday. The Hawks franchise will have their first contest in 20 years at home against the Lakers without Kobe Bryant leading the way for the Los Angeles franchise.
Bryant was always a huge draw at the Philips Arena, with the crowd even at some points blurting out MVP chants for the NBA legend. The Lakers now find themselves in a transition process into their new era of basketball, headlined by head coach Luke Walton and the emerging young core.
It wasn’t that long ago when the Lakers were coming off of their two consecutive championships, led by Bryant and teammate Pau Gasol. After losing to the Dallas Mavericks, Mitch Kupchak demonstrated his abilities by acquiring two-time league MVP Steve Nash in a trade.
Soon after, Kupchak was then able to acquire All-Star center Dwight Howard, as the expected final piece in a presumed championship roster. However, the results turned into a disaster, as the injuries and lack of chemistry created a hostile environment at Staples Center.
Bryant would tear his Achilles on the cusp of the playoffs, as the San Antonio Spurs would go on to sweep the Lakers. During the offseason, Howard departed for the Houston Rockets, in a failed attempt to win a championship with the Texas team.
Howard and Bryant never really got off on the right foot, with Bryant eventually calling the center soft in a later matchup between the two. With Howard and the new-look Hawks set to take on the Lakers on Wednesday, he was pestered with questions regarding Bryant and responded with a simple statement, via Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
“Let Kobe retire in peace,” Howard said.
It seems as though the friendship between the two is yet to be mended, as the competitive nature of Bryant never meshed well with the laid-back and fun approach of Howard.
During his lone year with the Lakers, Howard averaged 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.
All-Star forward Paul Millsap was also looking forward to the contest because he believes there will be a lot less Laker fans in attendance since Bryant is now retired.