LOS ANGELES — Carmelo Anthony will miss Friday’s game when the Portland Trail Blazers visit the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center because of what coach Terry Stotts described as “personal reasons.”
“I respect it. I know him and Kobe had a great relationship,” Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s something he was not ready to face and deal with. We all respect his decision.”
Anthony and Bryant first became close when they teamed up together on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team. Bryant offered counsel when Anthony asked the Denver Nuggets to trade him during the 2010-11 season, which eventually led to being dealt to the New York Knicks.
Bryant also gave Anthony advice on how to handle Knicks president and former Lakers coach Phil Jackson critiquing him publicly after Bryant also experienced tension when he played for Jackson (1999-2004, 2006-2011). Although Anthony re-signed with the Knicks in the 2014 offseason because of a larger contract, he met with the Lakers and Bryant during his free-agency tour.
“It’s a tough situation for everybody,” Lillard said. “The people closest to him and his family and things like that is obviously going to be harder for them. But for me it’s going to be emotional because I grew up idolizing Kobe, I grew up a huge fan of Kobe and cheering for Kobe and eventually becoming a peer of his and playing against him and getting cool with him and being in contact with him.
“All of those things makes for a very sad and emotional night. It’ll be a tough game to play. But I’m choosing to honor him and coming out and competing and showing my respect in that way.”
Contributing: Sandy Hooper.