Playoff-bound Lowry, DeRozan praise retiring Bryant
LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant only has two games remaining in his illustrious NBA career.
After the 2008 NBA MVP plays in his team's final regular season game against the Utah Jazz on Thursday, April 14, it will mark the end to a tenure highlighted by the third most points scored in league history, 18 All-Star Game selections, and 11 All-NBA First Team selections.
While Bryant will miss the playoffs for just the 5th time in his career, the Toronto Raptors, led by All-Stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, will most likely enter with the second seed in the Eastern Conference after what's been the franchise's best regular season with already 54 wins.
Toronto should be confident once the postseason begins, especially since it won the regular season series against the 7 other teams representing the East in the playoffs, including going 2-1 over defending conference champion Cleveland.
"I think we're completely different," said Lowry, who's averaging a career-high 21.4 points to go with 6.8 assists and 4.7 rebounds a game this season.
"Every year, you get better and your team changes but our core is the same. For us, everyone understands their roles and they're accepting of their roles."
Even though an exciting playoff stint is coming up, both Lowry and DeRozan couldn't help but praise Bryant, who leaves the league with 5 championships and two Finals MVPs.
"He's meant everything to the league for my generation," said Lowry. "I'm happy to be a part of it. I'm happy I've been able to witness the greatness of him, to play against him.
"It's been a great career for him and we all appreciate him as players."
Since being drafted 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996 (and subsequently traded to the Lakers), Bryant has been a face of the NBA thanks to his play, reputation for being a severe competitor, and public savvy.
DeRozan, who was born in Compton, California, saw a lot of Bryant growing up before getting drafted 9th by the Raptors in 2009. Like his backcourt mate Lowry, DeRozan has been averaging a career high in a contract year with 23.6 points plus 4.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists a game.
"It sucks to see a great go out," the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent said about Bryant. "I'm glad I got the opportunity to play with him for years, I have a great relationship with him, to be able to play his last All-Star Game with him."
DeRozan continued: "My thought is that he's one of the legends going down in the books. He deserves to be honored from here on out. It's definitely cool." – Rappler.com