Bryant gets in game

October 25, 2008|Mike Bresnahan | Bresnahan is a Times staff writer.

Kobe Bryant was back for only part of a quarter, more than enough time to show he was fine.

Bryant played for the first time since sustaining a hyperextended right knee and had six points in almost eight minutes of the Lakers' 105-94 exhibition victory Friday against Oklahoma City.

He made two three-point baskets in the first two minutes. Then he drove the lane and found Pau Gasol for a layup. He wasn't flawless, also air-balling a three-point attempt, but he looked sound and spry after sitting out Thursday night's exhibition.

Bryant stayed in the locker room for most of the second half and received treatment on the knee as a precaution. He said it was important to get back on the court before the season opener Tuesday against Portland.

"Just making sure the rhythm was good, make sure the knee was good. This way I don't have to go out on Tuesday and experiment with it," said Bryant, who wore a soft brace on the knee. "It felt good. It felt fine."

Bryant wasn't the only story of the night.

Andrew Bynum had 23 points and eight rebounds for the Lakers, who won their last six exhibition games to finish 6-2 in the preseason.

Bynum made 10 of 15 shots. On defense, he blocked three shots. He turns 21 Sunday.

"He did a really nice job, I thought, on the boards and blocking the lane," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "His offense was a big boost for us tonight."

Jackson said ahead of time he would play Bryant sparingly and kept his word. Bryant played only the first 7:55.

Bryant was injured in the second quarter of Tuesday's game against Charlotte after banging knees with teammate Josh Powell.

The injury was never serious enough to require an MRI exam, though Bryant reported swelling in the knee and sat out Thursday's rematch against the Bobcats.

Jackson shrugged when told skeptics might recommend holding Bryant out of Friday's game.

"Those are skeptics. That's what they do. They skepticize," he said. "When a guy's played for as long as this guy's played for, he understands his body and knows what he's about. If he wants to try it out, you let him do it."

The Lakers played in front of an announced sellout crowd for the first time this preseason. The game was the first event at the just-opened Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario.

Machine is running

Sasha Vujacic played for the first time after missing seven games because of an avulsion fracture in his left ankle.

He had three points on one-for-five shooting in 23 minutes.

"There's a little bit of discomfort but no sharp pain, which is good," he said. "We were all hoping it'd kind of go away slowly. It's healing really fast."

Vujacic averaged 8.8 points a game last season and shot a commendable 43.7% from three-point range.

Stop the excitement

Jackson had a winning record in exhibition play for only the second time in his nine seasons as the Lakers' coach.

Jackson was 16-24 in exhibition games during his first tour with the Lakers. He went 6-2 in 2005-06, his first year back with the team, before going 4-4 and 3-4 the last two seasons.


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