Lakers center Dwight Howard, left, sitting out the game after back surgery,… (Reed Saxon / Associated…)
The Lakers' Not Quite Big Four Tour made its latest stop Wednesday, with another superstar joining Dwight Howard in pricey street clothes on the bench.
Kobe Bryant sat out a 93-75 exhibition loss to the Portland Trail Blazers at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, one day after he strained his right shoulder while dunking on Antawn Jamison in practice.
Bryant said he was already feeling better before the game, adding that he would be back for the Lakers' next preseason game against Utah on Saturday at Staples Center.
Not that his vow provided any solace to those who had been eager to watch Bryant in his only appearance of the year in the Inland Empire.
There were boos after it was announced that Bryant, Howard and Jordan Hill weren't playing. Howard and Hill both sat out with herniated disks.
Fans cheered late in the first quarter when Howard and Bryant emerged from a tunnel and joined their teammates on the bench, Howard wearing a striped sweater and Bryant in a light gray sport coat and white shirt.
"Kobe! Kobe!" chanted the fans, who erupted again when Bryant's face was shown on the video board.
Bryant said fans displeased with him sitting out should have booed Coach Mike Brown.
"I told him I might not play," said Bryant, whose shoulder hurt so much Tuesday night that he felt pain just lying down. "He was like, 'All right, done. I'm not risking anything.'"
The game was not entirely devoid of thrills for the capacity crowd. Lakers point guard Steve Nash made a behind-the-back flip to Pau Gasol and a no-look pass to Metta World Peace for a layup on the way to finishing with 13 points and four assists.
World Peace continued to benefit from his newly svelte physique, moving fluidly and scoring 12 points.
But the Lakers experienced another second-half fade, this time with starters on the court for parts of the third and fourth quarters. Portland led by as many as 19 points after the score was tied, 44-44, at halftime.
A hodgepodge Lakers offense that included facets of the Princeton offense had some disjointed moments.
"I know if Pete Carril is watching us," Brown said, referring to the legendary coach, "he's probably bonking his head against the wall talking about, 'Everybody thinks that's the Princeton. It's not, it's not, it's not, it's not, it's not.'"
Of course, this is hardly the offense the Lakers plan to unveil with Bryant and Howard expected back for their Oct. 30 opener.
By then, Bryant presumably won't need the bulky black contraption that longtime trainer Gary Vitti slung over his arm and shoulder Wednesday to circulate oxygen over his injury. Bryant also wore a black piece of tape on the front of his shoulder to prevent further pinching sensations.
Spared from the drudgery of another preseason game, an unusually bubbly Bryant spent his day answering emails on the team bus, poking fun at new teammate Jodie Meeks ("I've been murdering that dude" in practice) and later relaying a conversation with Nash in which he had zinged a pair of former teammates.
"I tell Steve, 'You won MVP but I was playing with Smush Parker,'" Bryant said. "He's playing with [Leandro] Barbosa. I'm playing with Smush and Kwame [Brown]. My goodness.
"Smush Parker was the worst. He shouldn't have been in the NBA, but we were too cheap to pay for a point guard."