Kobe Bryant is headliner from the bench in Beijing as Lakers lose
BEIJING — If you missed it, you are forgiven. Entirely.
The Lakers played Golden State in an exhibition game that started at 4:30 a.m. Pacific time Tuesday, ended a few ticks before 6:45 and took place 6,000 miles from L.A.
Nick Young had 18 points, Pau Gasol had 15 and the chants for Kobe Bryant started in the first quarter of the Lakers’ 100-95 loss.
Bryant sat in a dark suit on the bench, still recovering from a torn Achilles’ tendon, but it didn’t stop the game-ops people from putting him on the scoreboard three or four times every quarter to the endless delight of Lakers fans.
There were substantially fewer shots of the Warriors’ bench. It wasn’t even close.
The fans weren’t here to see Jermaine O’Neal, Marreese Speights or Kent Bazemore. They were here to see Bryant.
He grabbed a microphone before the game, said hello to the crowd in Chinese and followed it up with a quick thought in English.
“I hope we put on a really great show for you guys and hopefully I’ll get back out there soon,” Bryant said to applause.
So fans gravitated toward another familiar name and cheered practically every touch by Gasol — even a missed three-point shot that would cause most Lakers followers to groan.
Whatever. MasterCard Center sold out briskly when tickets went on sale about a month ago, and there were few empty seats in the 18,000-seat facility that housed basketball at the 2008 Olympics.
A mishmash of ex-NBA stars were introduced during a first-quarter timeout, including Jerry West and A.C. Green (obvious Lakers connections), Dell Curry (the father of Warriors guard Stephen) and Muggsy Bogues (no one quite knew why).
It was, however, entertaining when Bogues went over to hug Yao Ming in a courtside seat. Height difference: 2 feet and 3 inches.
Yao, by the way, sat next to former Lakers guard Sun Yue, who won a championship ring (2009) in his one season with the Lakers but never lived up to the billing of the Chinese Magic Johnson.
The in-house emcee wore a Johnson jersey and a backward Lakers cap as he exhorted a pair of contest winners to make a three-point shot and win a trip to the NBA All-Star game in New Orleans in February.
They both shot airballs.
But they weren’t alone in their basketball boo-boos. The Lakers might want to work on something before their rematch Friday with the Warriors in Shanghai — interior defense.
David Lee had 31 points, making 12 of 16 shots as the Warriors seemed determined to win.
In the final minutes, their top five players were on the court — Lee, Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
The Lakers countered with Ryan Kelly, Robert Sacre, Steve Blake, Elias Harris and Xavier Henry.
Not surprisingly, the Warriors pulled away down the stretch, though Lakers fans were unperturbed. The push to get as close as possible to one of their heroes had already begun.
Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni signaled Bryant wouldn’t be back in time for the season opener against the Clippers on Oct. 29. “Uh, no,” D’Antoni said afterward, though he added Bryant’s 20-minute jogging session Monday went well. “Nobody said it was bad. We just have to wait awhile."…Referee Gary Zielinski approached Yao during a second-quarter timeout and said, “You still play once in a while?” To quote D’Antoni: “Uh, no.” Yao answered by swinging an invisible golf club.
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