Bryant needs some legwork

Times Staff Writer

Long after the NBA Finals ended in mid-June, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol took center stage in an international theater, helping their respective countries to gold and silver finishes at the Beijing Olympics.

Has there been a carry-over effect from almost two months’ worth of overtime?

Gasol seems to be faring fine on the court this month, but Bryant has looked fatigued at times, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said.


“Kobe still looks to me like his legs might be a little bit tired,” Jackson said. “So I constantly ask him if he wants to take a day off or if he needs a day off. I check in with him.”

Bryant sat out a few practices the first week of training camp and was sidelined for the second part of Friday’s practice after feeling a twinge in his back. He is not expected to miss preseason games tonight and Sunday at Staples Center.

Bryant’s shot has been somewhat flat in preseason play. He is shooting 36% (nine for 25) in three exhibition games.

“That’s all legs,” Jackson said. “He’s got to get his legs into it.”

Bryant also had a subpar exhibition season a year ago, but he snapped back to life with a 45-point effort in the season opener against Houston and eventually won his first league most-valuable-player award.

The Lakers begin the regular season Oct. 28 against Portland.

Still on speaking terms

Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak and the agent for Andrew Bynum met Friday afternoon in El Segundo, the first of possibly several face-to-face talks this month.

Bynum’s agent, David Lee, has been seeking a maximum contract extension for his client that will pay about $85 million over five years.

The Lakers are unwilling to approach that financial number, particularly with Bynum coming off a knee injury that short-circuited his season in January.

The Lakers declined to comment. Lee could not be reached for comment.

Bynum, who says his surgically repaired knee feels fine, is in the last year of a contract that pays him $2.8 million this season.

If the sides don’t agree to a deal by Oct. 31, they can’t negotiate again until Bynum becomes a restricted free agent July 1. Bynum could then sign an offer sheet with another team, though the Lakers have the right to match that offer and retain him through 2013-14.

Bynum’s other option next summer would be to sign a one-year qualifying offer with the Lakers for about $3.8 million and become an unrestricted free agent in July 2010.

Bynum, who averaged 13.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocked shots a game last season, worked hard in his post-surgery rehabilitation and checked into training camp at 285 pounds with 9% body fat, his agent said. Bynum also gained an inch and is now 7-1, Lee said.

“Anybody who has watched his work ethic for the last few months, this is a kid who was working out six hours a day, six days week,” Lee said recently. “Two hours on the track, two hours in the weight room, two hours on the court.”

Bynum, who turns 21 on Oct. 27, has slowly been rounding into basketball shape since training camp began and is still working on the timing that made him a consistent source of offense before his injury.

He is averaging 10 points and 7.3 rebounds through three preseason games, though he is tied for the team lead with nine turnovers.

Spanish reunion

Tonight’s game isn’t a run-of-the mill exhibition yawner for at least one member of the Lakers.

Gasol knows practically everyone on the Regal FC Barcelona team that will play the Lakers at Staples Center.

Gasol, who played five years with Regal FC Barcelona, was born in Barcelona and lives there during the off-season.

Gasol is close with FC Barcelona guard Juan Carlos Navarro, his former teammate with the Memphis Grizzlies and on the Spanish national team at the Beijing Olympics.

Gasol took a handful of the Barcelona players to a trendy West Hollywood Japanese restaurant Thursday but said he would play harder than usual in tonight’s exhibition.

“There’s a little more motivation than a regular preseason game for me,” he said.