By Brian Mahoney
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The buzz is back in Philadelphia, even as the 76ers fall further into NBA infamy every time they play.
Kobe Bryant is coming home to play _ for the last time.
The Los Angeles Lakers’ first road game since Bryant announced he would retire after this season is Tuesday night in Philadelphia, and everybody seems excited.
“I’m hearing it’s probably going to be sold out just because it’s Kobe’s last time playing in Philadelphia. That’ll be great,” 76ers rookie Jahlil Okafor said.
With the 76ers off to an 0-18 start and losers of a record 28 straight _ the longest losing streak in major U.S. pro sports _ anger and apathy have set in around the franchise. A ticket on the resale site StubHub was as cheap as $8 to see San Antonio visit Philadelphia next week.
But after Bryant’s announcement, the least expensive seat in the house was going late Sunday night for $59 _ and that’s almost certain to keep rising over the next couple days.
“It’s going to be beautiful,” Bryant said. “So much of my game was developed from Philadelphia.”
Bryant was born in Philadelphia and was drafted out of Lower Merion High School in 1996. His hometown hasn’t always adored him, with fans famously booing him in the 2002 All-Star Game after he helped the Lakers beat the 76ers in the 2001 NBA Finals.
But cheers will surely drown out any boos Tuesday. Bryant has insisted he doesn’t want one of those farewell tours for retiring stars, and coach Byron Scott doesn’t think that will change just because of the location.
“I think he’s going to kind of view it the same as he’s done every game. He’s just going to go out there and try to win and try to play the best he can,” Scott said.
The 76ers have been more competitive lately and might have a good chance to earn their first victory against the Lakers, who at 2-14 have the NBA’s second-worst record.
But even if they lose and surpass the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets for the worst start in NBA history, it should be a memorable night.
“It’s an honour to sort of welcome him back to Philadelphia to begin with,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “Kobe’s legend has lived in that city for many years, and will continue to live there. For him to come back and play his first game after announcing his retirement, it’s a privilege for all of us.”
Elsewhere in the NBA this week:
CURRY IN CHARLOTTE: Bryant isn’t the only MVP-winning guard going home. Stephen Curry is back in Charlotte on Wednesday, when Golden State could be looking for a 20-0 start if it gets by Utah on Monday in the opener of a seven-game road trip.
HEAT’S ON: Miami welcomes three of the NBA’s premier scorers in a three-night span. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Thunder visit Thursday, and LeBron James returns with the Cavaliers two nights later.
GREAT GEORGE: Paul George had 40, 33 and 39 points last week for an Indiana team that has won five straight. After beating the Lakers on Sunday, the California native gets a second straight game in Los Angeles on Wednesday against the Clippers.
SOUTH OF THE BORDER: The NBA returns to Mexico on Thursday when the Boston Celtics face the Sacramento Kings in Mexico City.
LOPEZ VS. LOPEZ, N.Y. VS. N.Y.: The first meeting between twin brothers Brook and Robin Lopez as starting centres in the same city comes Friday, when Brook and the Brooklyn Nets visit Robin’s New York Knicks. Mere miles away, it’s the Nets’ only road game in a nine-game stretch.
STAT LINE OF THE WEEK: Draymond Green, Golden State: With 13 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists Saturday in a 120-101 victory over Sacramento, Green became the first Warriors player with back-to-back triple-doubles since Wilt Chamberlain in 1964.
AP freelance writer Clay Bailey in Memphis, Tennessee contributed to this report.
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