Bryant to sit out Lakers' final game; Thunder's Durant wins scoring title
Kobe Bryant will not play in the Lakers' season finale against the Kings
Bryant's absence ensures that Kevin Durant will win his third straight scoring title
The Lakers, locked into the third seed in the West, will rest all of their stars
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Kobe Bryant has decided to sit out the Lakers' regular-season finale against the Kings on Thursday, thereby conceding the NBA scoring title to Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant.
Durant completed his season Wednesday with an average of 28 points, meaning Bryant (27.9 points) would have needed to score 38 points to eclipse him and be the scoring champ for the third time in his illustrious 16-year career. Instead, the 23-year-old Durant will become the first player to win three consecutive titles since Michael Jordan from 1995-98.
The Lakers (41-24) have secured the third seed in the Western Conference playoffs and are waiting to see whether they will face Dallas or Denver in the first round. Bryant, who missed seven games this month with a shin injury, is more focused on winning a sixth championship than earning yet another individual accolade.
Lakers coach Mike Brown said there was no conversation about whether the 33-year-old Bryant would play.
"The only thing that I just now asked him [is], 'How old would you have been for you to want to play in this game?' " Brown said. "And he said, he wouldn't have.
"He said when he was 23 [actually 27], they were playing Dallas and he had 62 [points] and Dallas had 61 through three quarters, and [former Lakers coach] Phil [Jackson] asked him if he wanted to go back in and he told Phil 'no.' I guess contrary to what everybody would probably or possibly think about him, [scoring] is not what he's all about."
Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Matt Barnes also won't play against the Kings, while Metta World Peace will begin serving his seven-game suspension for elbowing the Thunder's James Harden. Brown said the likely starting lineup would be guards Ramon Sessions and Steve Blake and big men Christian Eyenga, Josh McRoberts and Jordan Hill.