When the Lakers locker room opened, only one player was in the room.
While his teammates showered, Kobe Bryant sat with a towel around his neck, speaking in a dejected tone about his team’s disappointing performance.
The Lakers, who were 0-8 in exhibition play, lost to the Dallas Mavericks, 99-91, in their season opener Tuesday evening at Staples Center. It was a sputtering start for one of the most talked-about teams in the NBA.
“We want to execute much better offensively,” Bryant said.
His usage of the word “we” was awfully kind.
Bryant was the Lakers’ best player Tuesday despite his strained right foot, which he acknowledged hobbled him a bit.
“I played at probably 80, 85%,” Bryant said.
For his first basket, he executed a stutter step at the free throw line, then accelerated for a layup. He continued to play aggressively, scoring each of his first six points inside the paint. He finished with 22 points on 11-for-14 shooting.
The rest of his stat line was surprisingly barren.
He had only one rebound and zero assists. Even more surprisingly, he had no free throw attempts.
Was that an unintended byproduct of the team’s disjointed Princeton offense?
Not according to Bryant.
“I didn’t get fouled, it’s as simple as that,” he quipped.
But his teammates sure did.
The Lakers were 12 for 31 from the free throw line, a stat Bryant thinks only partially contributed to the loss.
“You’ve got to put it all in the pot,” Bryant said. “It’s never just one thing.”
Bryant was quick to defend his team’s poor performance, which included a one-for-eight shooting night from Metta World Peace, a quiet seven points and four assists from Steve Nash and a dreadful three for 14 free throw display from Dwight Howard.
He said this team is still learning to play together, a period which he says will be a process.
The team’s motto?
“To get better every day,” he said.