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Lakers defeat Utah, 111-106, in exhibition

The Lakers end their preseason 4-4, but Kobe Bryant's free agency and Steve Nash's health are among concerns as opening night looms.

October 25, 2013|By Mike Bresnahan
  • Pau Gasol shoots over Derrick Favors during the Lakers' 111-106 win over the Utah Jazz in a preseason exhibition game at the Honda Center.
Pau Gasol shoots over Derrick Favors during the Lakers' 111-106 win… (Chris Carlson / Associated…)

The Lakers' bus was half an hour late for pregame festivities, stymied by Friday afternoon traffic from El Segundo to Anaheim.

Are the harbingers already lining up for the 2013-14 season?

On one hand, at least they didn't go winless like last exhibition season. On the other, there are more questions about the Lakers than tattoos on Robert Sacre's body.

Kobe Bryant's return date is still unclear, though the Lakers aren't necessarily ready to say goodbye to him next July. He is in the last year of a contract that will pay him $30.5 million this season.

"Kobe's a priority of ours. He's a Laker icon," Lakers Executive Vice President Jim Buss said Friday. "Kobe's not going to be the free agent like people think he is. I want to stop speculation that he would go to free agency."

Buss then expressed confidence a deal would be struck but said negotiations hadn't "heated up" because Bryant was still injured.

Bryant is out indefinitely because of a torn Achilles' and Steve Nash looks less and less like a presence as opening night looms dauntingly close — Tuesday against the Clippers.

Nash was joined in the backcourt by another point guard (Steve Blake) for yet another game and finished with seven points and four assists in a 111-106 victory Friday over Utah at half-full (maybe) Honda Center. Blake made all seven of his shots, five from three-point range, for 19 points.

Nash averaged four points and 3.6 assists in exhibition play. He's been bothered by a sore ankle, stiff neck and uncooperative back. He'll be 40 in February.

Blake and Jordan Farmar had better be ready.

"That's why I'm here," Farmar said. "I want Steve to be healthy and play as much as he can, but I still think there's an opportunity for me to help this team."

There was at least one good trend for the Lakers, who finished 4-4 in exhibition play.

Pau Gasol looked more like himself after a sublimely poor 2012-13 and was obviously thrilled to get back to the low post, his mental billboard to Dwight Howard probably something akin to "THANKS."

But Chris Kaman looked solid for a few games before disappearing for almost a week with an intestinal ailment. He did not play Friday.

The team wanted youth and athleticism and got a little of both with inexpensive free agents Wesley Johnson, Nick Young and Farmar.

Young took a lot of shots, and made a so-so 43%, while Johnson was still feeling his way around the court with his third NBA team in four seasons.

Farmar has been fine so far in his second tour with the Lakers, leading them with a 13.8-point average after scoring 11 against Utah.

Waiting impatiently is Bryant, who won't be ready for the season opener.

"It's about making sure you're running with the proper gait and not putting stress in other areas that are going to cause problems down the road," he said.

Sounds complex.

But Bryant wasn't worried how he'd look when he came back.

"I think I'll play like my normal self," he said.

The Lakers can hardly wait for his return. And hope he's right.

Landry waived

Forward Marcus Landry was released Friday, bringing the Lakers' roster to 15 for the start of the season. Landry averaged four points in six exhibition games.

Rookies Ryan Kelly and Elias Harris are expected to make the opening-night roster, but their contracts won't be guaranteed until early January.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan

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