"It's disappointing. It's very disappointing," Bryant said.
"And it's frustrating."
Travis Outlaw's layup with 7.1 seconds left kept the Lakers at
bay, and the Portland Trail Blazers beat Los Angeles 106-103
Wednesday night in a matchup of two teams that will miss the
Bryant, who reached the NBA Finals last season before the Lakers
were broken up and O'Neal was traded to Miami, his team with 37
points. But it was for naught as the Lakers lost their sixth
"I've always been one to bounce back," Bryant said. "That's
what I'm going to do -- put the season behind us, but remember the
pain and the frustration that came with it."
The Blazers, who emphasized developing young talent as the
season wound down, finished 27-55. Outlaw, in his second NBA
season, led the Blazers with a career-high 20 points, while rookie
Sebastian Telfair had 17 points and 11 assists.
"If you looked around the building tonight you saw some of our
future playing out there," said Blazers interim coach Kevin
Pritchard, the team's director of player personnel.
"It had to be done and I promise it will pay huge dividends.
When you consider that we beat the Lakers with Kobe Bryant playing
big minutes, with a team that had Viktor, Ha, Sebastian, Travis --
our young players -- playing the bulk of the minutes in the fourth
quarter, you have to feel good about next year," he said.
Trailing 101-100, Ruben Patterson hit a pair of free throws and
Ha made a hook shot to put the Blazers up 104-101 with 1:45 left.
The score stayed there until Patterson fouled Bryant with 30
seconds left. Bryant hit both free throws to narrow it to 104-103.
Outlaw's layup put Portland back in control, and the Lakers
couldn't do anything as the clock ran out. Patterson hurled the
ball into the stands and stripped off his shirt in celebration of
the win, but the Blazers aren't going to the playoffs for the
second straight season.
Without O'Neal and coach Jackson, the Lakers failed to reach the
postseason for the first time since 1993-94. Adding to the insult
was the fact that the Lakers finished with a worse record than the
Bryant averaged 27.6 points a game, not good enough to overcome
his team's other shortcomings.
After the Lakers fell 126-99 at Golden State on Monday, interim
coach Frank Hamblen canceled practice Tuesday, saying he didn't
know if there was anything else the team could work on.
"I don't think we'd have been a team that would've won 50
games, if healthy. But if healthy, I think we could have competed
for a playoff spot," said Hamblen, who took over for Tomjanovich.
Portland native Damon Stoudamire, who has been a Trail Blazer
for seven-plus seasons, now becomes a free agent. A group of fans
honored the hometown favorite with a sign reading "We love you
Damon. Thanks 4 the memories."
An O'Neal fan lofted a sign reading: "No Shaq. No playoffs."
Bryant became the 15th player to reach 14,000 points and
the youngest to do it. Bryant was be 26 years and 240 days, while
Michael Jordan reached 14,000 at 27 years, 68 days. ... The Lakers
were without forward Caron Butler for the second straight game. He
was at home in Southern California to be with his 1-year-old
daughter, Mia, who had an asthma attack. ... The already
injury-depleted Trail Blazers were without center Joel Przybilla,
who had back spasms. ... Lakers center Vlade Divac served the
second of a two-game suspension for elbowing Mavericks center Shawn
Bradley. Divac played in only 15 games this season, averaging 2.3
points and 2.1 rebounds. ... The Blazers finished the season 9-32
on the road, their worst record away from Portland since they were
5-36 in 1973-74.