Kobe Bryant, center, goes up for a shot against the Mavericks during the… (Jae C. Hong / Associated…)
Kobe Bryant used his time wisely while recovering from his foot injury, making a padded training table on the sideline a hotbed of shouts and hisses during Lakers practices.
He did his best to chastise, er, coach the Lakers' underachieving reserves.
"For me, it was just about challenging our second unit," he said Tuesday. "When I'm practicing, I'm normally just trying to beat the crap out of them. When I was on the sideline … I had a chance to have a little chit-chat with them and give them some words of encouragement, kind of get them riled up a little bit."
It worked to some extent in the Lakers' season opener Tuesday, which they lost to the Dallas Mavericks, 99-91. The reserves, a sore spot last season for the Lakers, were active in spurts in the game.
Jordan Hill had nine points, five rebounds and several hustle plays, showing why the Lakers brought him back with a two-year contract for $7 million. Antawn Jamison converted a three-point play early in the fourth quarter as the Lakers tried to rally from a 10-point deficit.
But Jodie Meeks couldn't find his scoring touch (three points in 12 minutes) and Steve Blake was scoreless with six assists.
Any contribution from Meeks and Jamison would have been welcomed by the Lakers. Meeks averaged 5.9 points and shot 26.7% in exhibition play, and Jamison averaged 4.4 points and shot 28.9%.
Even Lakers Coach Mike Brown wasn't sure what to expect from the bench.
"That's a good question," he said before the game. "We'll see. In practice at times they look good. I think it can carry over to the floor because it's going to have to. We're going to need those guys to play some minutes and be effective while they're out there in order to give our starters a rest."
Priority No. 1 for the reserves: Make sure leads don't fall into the abyss when they are handed them by the starters.
Priority No. 2: Get Bryant more rest this season after he averaged 38.5 minutes last season … especially while he continues to play through his foot injury.
Bryant chuckled when asked whether he received medical clearance from Lakers trainers.
"I never get clearance," Bryant said. "Either I'm ready to go or I'm not ready to go.
"They've done a great job treating me and getting me ready. We've been together for so long. They trust my judgment."
Bryant was injured Oct. 21 when he tripped over Sacramento forward Thomas Robinson in an exhibition game. He didn't envision sitting out the season opener but wanted to make sure his injury wasn't the nagging type, one that would linger into the winter.
"We've put together a great roster here and I worked real hard this summer to get myself in tip-top shape and be ready to go," he said. "I'm not going to play with an injury that's going to get progressively worse and just limp through the season."
It's up to the reserves to make sure the Lakers don't limp through parts of their season.