Kobe Bryant is making his final trip to Philadelphia when the Los Angeles Lakers play the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center. On Sunday afternoon, Kobe officially announced his retirement from the NBA at the end of the season in a heartfelt poem on The Players’ Tribune.
Throughout his storied NBA career, Kobe was greeted with a chorus of “boos” from his hometown Philadelphia crowd. In 2002, Kobe had another homecoming at the All-Star game in Philadelphia and won Most Valuable Player honors, but the “boos” continued to rain down from his hometown crowd.
Tuesday night will be different in Philadelphia. Since Kobe announced his retirement, he will almost certainly be greeted with cheers of appreciation on the road for the remainder of the season, especially on Tuesday night against the 76ers. It will be an emotional night for Kobe, but the Lakers will need to focus on not losing to the worst team in the NBA.
The 76ers present and future plans revolve around the 2015 No. 3 overall pick, Jahlil Okafor. Okafor was the favorite to be drafted with the No. 2 overall pick by the Lakers, but the team decided to draft D’Angelo Russell instead. Okafor has impressed his rookie season, averaging 18 points and eight rebounds, and is making a case to win the NBA Rookie of the Year. Okafor has a polished post game with his back to the basket, but is not a great defensive presence, so the Lakers need to attack the rim early and often.
Nerlens Noel starts alongside Okafor at power forward and has the length to alter shots in the paint. Noel is not nearly the scoring threat that Okafor is down low, but he is an active big man who can keep plays alive with his hustle. Noel sat out in the 76ers last game and is questionable to return against the Lakers.
The 76ers have plenty of hope that their frontcourt prospects can develop into solid NBA players someday, but their backcourt is not as promising. The Lakers young backcourt should have their way against the weak 76ers backcourt.
Rookie T.J. McConnell is the starting point guard for the 76ers. He has had some growing pains like the rest of the team, and has only averaged seven points and six assists per game. Starting alongside McConnell is Nik Stauskas, who is also a rookie who has had his struggles this season. D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson need to be aggressive and make the 76ers miserable all night.
Keys to Victory:
Limit Okafor: Jahlil Okafor will have a lot to prove to the Lakers tonight after they passed on him in favor of D’Angelo Russell. This will be a statement game for Okafor, so expect him to be aggressive with the ball in the post. Last week, Okafor shined in what was a statement game against No. 1 overall pick, Karl Antony-Towns, and he will look to do the same against the Lakers.
Show Up: The 76ers have been a bottom-feeder in the NBA for several years now, and this season, they have a chance to set the record for the worst start in NBA history with a loss against the Lakers. Of course, it will take a little more for the Lakers to get a win in Philadelphia, but if the team shows up in one piece, they will likely earn their third win of the season.
Get Kobe Going Early: Kobe’s adrenaline will be pumping a little more than usual in his final homecoming, so the Lakers should look to get him involved early in the offense. Coach Byron Scott needs to find ways to get Kobe the ball in a good position for him to score and go to that often. Kobe wants to have a big night and basketball fans around the world would love to see him have a successful homecoming.
Los Angeles Lakers (2-14) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (0-18)
4:00 PM PST, December 1, 2015
Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
TV: TWC SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 (Spanish)
Trail Blazers Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: T.J. McConnell
SG: Nik Stauskas
SF: Jerami Grant
PF: Jahlil Okafor
C: Nerlens Noel
Key Reserves: PG: Isaiah Canaan, SG: JaKarr Sampson, PF: Carl Landry
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Jordan Clarkson
SF: Kobe Bryant
PF: Julius Randle
C: Roy Hibbert
Key Reserves: SG: Lou Williams, SF: Nick Young, PF: Larry Nance Jr.