Lakers forward Lamar Odom attempts to drive past San Antonio power forward… (Bahram Mark Sobhani / Associated…)
Reporting from San Antonio — It took the Lakers long enough — endless months, weeks and days blending into halves, quarters and minutes — but they finally arrived for the 2010-11 season.
It was worth a double-take, if not a triple, the 48 minutes that signaled their interest in the rest of the season, a rout heard 'round the NBA, all opponents be forewarned.
The Lakers didn't beat the San Antonio Spurs. They pummeled them, leading by as many as 32 points in a 99-83 victory Sunday in front of a stunningly quiet, and quickly emptying, AT&T Center.
Andrew Bynum seemed to grab every rebound, Pau Gasol simply couldn't miss (even drilling a three-pointer, his first since 2008), Ron Artest was a comedian who happened to score eight points, and Kobe Bryant quarterbacked the entire operation.
The Lakers were free on offense and grinding on defense, winning their seventh consecutive game and holding the Spurs to 36% shooting.
Tim Duncan was a total nonfactor, scoring two points on one-for-seven shooting, and only one Spurs starter scored in double figures, Tony Parker with 14 points.
The Lakers had landed. The Spurs, uh, noticed.
"We couldn't make layups, threes, free throws, anything. And besides, they played more angry," said a beleaguered Manu Ginobili, who had six points on three-for-10 shooting. "We were a little, not soft, but waited to see what was going to happen and they came to get it."
The timing can't be better for the Lakers (45-19), taking the first step on a four-game trip that also routes them through Atlanta, Miami and, of particular interest, Dallas, which is still ahead of them for second place in the Western Conference.
If they play like they did Sunday, 4-0 isn't out of the question.
The Spurs and their league-leading record (51-12) looked confused all afternoon. They trailed after the first quarter, 34-13, and at halftime, 65-37, numbers that would stun the rest of the league.
"We caught them by surprise at the start of the game," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said.
There were many surprises.
The coaching staff told the players beforehand to return to the tenets of the triangle offense — pass the ball instead of dribbling, think team play instead of one on one — and it showed.
Bryant had 26 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Gasol almost matched him with 21 points, six rebounds and five assists. Bynum continued his binge on the boards, taking 17 rebounds for a second consecutive game, one short of his career high, yet again.
Then there was Artest.
He flexed in front of an irritated crowd and kissed his right biceps after blocking George Hill's shot. Then he played peacemaker after Bryant elbowed Ginobili, pushing Bryant away before further issues arose. (It wasn't enough to stop Bryant from picking up his 13th technical foul. If he gets three more between now and the end of the regular season, he'll be suspended by the NBA for a game.)
Artest also chased a ball into the front row, creating a geyser of coffee that sprayed a cup-holding fan and rolled down the back of Artest's legs. Not that he cared.
"He's locked in. He's focused," Bryant said. "We all are. Ron knows exactly what we need from him. He's just going out there being aggressive and taking it to 'em."
Not everything was perfect, the Lakers leaving just enough work for Monday's practice in Atlanta.
Jackson wasn't thrilled that the reserves let San Antonio make a minor run in the fourth quarter, forcing him to reinsert Bryant and Fisher with 5:57 left and the Lakers up 22.
"I didn't like the way the bench was playing," he said. "They were settling for outside shots."
The Lakers won't be catching San Antonio in the standings. But the Spurs have unquestionably been put on notice. The two-time defending champs are still the team to beat.