Kobe Bryant claimed to be almost 100%. Then he went out and scored 28 points.
Tough to argue with him.
His lift will never be quite what it was, but the arthritic joint isn’t hurting in his formerly ailing right knee, providing a boost to his game and his team when the Lakers needed it.
They survived Andrew Bynum’s four-game suspension and emerged with a 2-2 record after a 99-82 victory Thursday over the defenseless New York Knicks at Staples Center.
Bryant, 33, underwent a minor but innovative knee procedure in Germany after last season. It’s apparently working.
“It made a huge difference for me,” Bryant said Thursday in a rare pregame interview. “It’s about 95% better, if not to say 100.”
Bryant made 10 of 17 shots against the Knicks, who consider defense to be purely optional.
The Lakers couldn’t miss in the first half, making 23 of 32 shots (71.9%), their best accuracy in a half since shooting 77.1% against Orlando in the second half of a March 1999 game.
Pau Gasol had 16 points and 10 rebounds against the Knicks. Josh McRoberts had 10 points, six rebounds and two dunks, one more than the Knicks.
Bryant was the story, as usual.
With Carmelo Anthony guarding him, Bryant dribbled behind his back and hit a 15-foot fadeaway. It didn’t compare to the four-point play he completed after being fouled by Renaldo Balkman in the third quarter. Bryant seemed as surprised as anyone, raising his eyebrow, and puffing out his cheeks.
He finished the playoffs last season with back-to-back 17-point games in losses to Dallas. His first three games this season: 28 points against Chicago, 29 at Sacramento and 26 against Utah.
He is getting to the free-throw line more often, logging averages of 7.3 makes in 8.8 attempts after averaging 5.9 makes in 7.1 attempts last season.
“After those last couple long years, you didn’t know how he was going to come back, and he’s looking pretty good,” Metta World Peace said. “He’s getting to the line. I can see that. Maybe [the procedure] was a good thing.”
In the knee procedure, marketed as Regenokine or Orthtokine, blood is removed from the affected area of a patient and spun in a centrifuge. A serum is then created and injected back into the targeted area to combat proteins and molecules that cause inflammatory responses.
Bryant is off to a sturdy start despite a torn ligament in his right wrist and an oft-injured right index finger that he said was now “kind of bone on bone.”
Bynum is eligible to return Saturday against Denver after having his suspension recently downsized by the NBA from five games to four.
The Lakers will take it, especially after sneaking a peek around the league.
The Boston Celtics are winless in three games. So are the Dallas Mavericks. The Lakers were headed that direction after an 0-2 start, but they pulled out of it.
Some purists would wince at the quality of basketball in the rushed post-lockout start to the NBA season.
“You see teams come out and play really well one night and the next night lose by 30,” Bryant said. “It’s been pretty inconsistent across the board.”
The Lakers showed consistency early this week only in their propensity for fourth-quarter fizzles. Not so much the last few days.