Kobe Bryant feels good after lengthy stint in opener


Kobe Bryant was more facilitator than scorer Tuesday against Houston, part of his gradual recovery from off-season knee surgery that prevented the Lakers’ top player from being at full strength in the season opener.

He improved his outside touch after a one-for-five start, finishing with 27 points on eight-for-20 shooting, not that he ever doubted it would happen.

“Do you really have to worry about me finding my shot?” he said crisply after Wednesday’s practice.


It’s only one game into the season, and the Lakers have an easy schedule until late December, but Bryant’s progress will continue to be monitored until he shows signs of regaining the burst and lift he possessed before his right knee started hurting toward the end of last season.

He said he was fine after playing 37 minutes against Houston. “I felt good,” said Bryant, who had seven assists.

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson didn’t find any faults.

“He kept us competitive and carried the torch, so to speak, for the team at the end of the game,” Jackson said. “He still thinks that he needs some work on some … aspects of his game and his body, and let that come along, but we’re hopeful that those things look good.”

Some of Bryant’s personality filtered out after Steve Blake basically won the game for the Lakers, scoring 10 points off the bench, including the go-ahead three-pointer with 18.8 seconds left in a 112-110 victory.

Blake said Bryant’s presence was a factor in signing a four-year contract with the Lakers.

“I didn’t talk to him, but just the fact that he’s the best player in the world, he didn’t have to say anything,” Blake said. “When I signed on the second day of free agency, or committed, he was the first one to call me. It was cool to hear from him right away and he told me he really wanted me to be here.”


Said Bryant: “If you’re a part of this team, you become a brother of mine. It’s as simple as that.”

What about Artest?

Ron Artest had a miserable shooting night after a solid exhibition season, making three of 15 attempts against Houston. He did not play in the fourth quarter and finished with eight points.

“He had a couple fast breaks that turned into slow breaks and they caught up to him. And then he tried to put a couple shots up underneath on Yao Ming,” Jackson said.

Artest bristled after Jackson criticized him last May, saying on Twitter that the Lakers’ coach should “close his yapper,” but he didn’t seem affected by the critique Wednesday.

“It doesn’t matter,” Artest said. “It depends what happens at the end of June. That’s the only thing that’s real important.”

Rookie report


The first reserve to enter Tuesday’s game was … rookie Derrick Caracter?

After Lamar Odom got into foul trouble, Caracter checked into the game with 8:46 left in the first quarter.

Jackson smiled when asked if he could have ever imagined using a rookie as his first sub in a season opener. “He didn’t imagine it either,” Jackson said of Caracter. “Very unfair for him.”

Caracter played only 2:14 of the first quarter, missed a shot, picked up a personal foul and didn’t go back into the game.

Injuries, injuries

Reserve center Theo Ratliff did not practice Wednesday because of continual soreness in his left knee. He was scoreless in 16 minutes Tuesday.

Bryant, Andrew Bynum (off-season knee surgery) and Luke Walton (strained hamstring) also did not practice, though Walton worked out off to the side.