This date marks the last time the Lakers and Spurs played a regular season contest where both Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan didn’t step foot on the court. In Duncan’s case, he was suiting up for Wake Forest at the time, which severely limited his availability for San Antonio. As for Bryant, to the best of my knowledge, Del Harris simply opted not to call his number. Kobe’s PT often fluctuated wildly as a rookie reserve. Case in point. He logged 21 minutes in the previous game against Utah, and put up 11 points on 4-5 shooting, plus an assist, a rebound, a block and a pair of turnovers. This was simply NBA life for the eventual five-time champion.
Well, tonight’s meeting between the Lakers and Spurs marks a repeat of this very rare history. Kobe is obviously sidelined as he recovers from his Achilles injury and Duncan is out with a chest contusion. Thus, I thought it was worth a quick rundown of the last Kobe-less, Duncan-less clash. Here are some details and numbers from the Lakers’ 96-86 win.
Respective records heading into the game: Lakers: 9-3, Spurs: 2-8
Spurs coach: Bill Hill (on the verge of being fired for Popovich)
Lakers coach: Harris
Nick Van Exel
Vinny Del Negro
Dominque Wilkins (Achilles irony alert!)
Leading scorer: O’Neal (29)
Leading rebounder: O’Neal (21)
Leading assists: Johnson (14)
Leading steals: Jerome Kersey (6, off the Laker bench!)
Kobe’s fellow rookie in “DNP-CD” crime: Travis Knight
The line for fellow rookie Derek Fisher, who did actually play: 12 minutes, 0 points (0-2 FG, 0-1 3pt), assists, 2 fouls
Future head coaches suited up: Del Negro, Johnson, Scott, Monty Williams
The famous name missing from action: David Robinson, who only played six games that season, which explains in large part how the Spurs got Duncan the following summer in the draft.
Along those lines, December 5, 1997 marked the first time the Lakers and Spurs played with Kobe and Duncan taking the court. (It was the second meeting between these teams that season, but Kobe didn’t play in the first, presumably again Harris’ decision.) Kobe, still a reserve, put up 17 points on 4-10 shooting, with five assists, four rebounds, three steals and a clean 8-8 line at the stripe. Duncan was good for 18 points (8-13 FG), nine rebounds, three assists, two steals, two blocks, and five turnovers.
From there, so many great battles between, without question, the two greatest players of their generation.