Kobe Bryant REALLY draws a crowd in Beijing

BEIJING — In a nation of 1.3 billion people, it’s easy to find Kobe Bryant.

Just look for the big group of security guards.

Bryant is almost too popular here to leave the Lakers’ five-star hotel in the Chinese capital.

“It’s harder for me to walk around here than it is in the [United] States,” he said. “In the States, you get a lot of recognition — ‘hi,’ and they want autographs and pictures and so forth and so on. Out here, it’s uncontrollable. They really rush you and surround you and then it becomes something where you can’t go out.”


Even local media types get aggressive. Several times at Monday’s Lakers practice, ever-encroaching broadcasters and reporters were told to get off a stage where Bryant was doing a handful of one-on-one interviews. Security guards eventually had to hold hands and form a ring around him.

The scrum easily surpassed what he’d face on a day of practice during the NBA Finals.

How does he have this appeal to Chinese fans and media?

“They’ve really just gravitated,” Bryant said. “I think it’s the combination of the game, I think it’s the combination of the ups and downs of my career and battling through injury and that sort of stuff. And the work ethic. Those are things that transfer very easily.”

After Bryant was done with interviews Monday, he jogged for about 20 minutes around the concourse of MasterCard Arena, where the team was practicing.

It was his longest stretch of non-treadmill running since he sustained a torn Achilles’ tendon in mid-April.

There is no timetable for his return, though he says he needs three weeks of conditioning before returning to game action. The Lakers’ regular-season opener is two weeks away.

Howard’s everywhere

The Lakers still can’t escape Dwight Howard even though they’re 6,000 miles from home.

Howard made an appearance here on behalf of Adidas this summer, and many giant-size likenesses of the center, in his Houston Rockets uniform, overlook an outdoor court next to MasterCard Arena.

The slogan plastered on the mural: “All in for Dwight.”

And yes, one of the recreational players on the court Monday happened to wear Lakers purple and gold in the shadow of Howard’s red and white.

The Lakers will have practiced at the arena three times before Tuesday’s exhibition against Golden State but their bus has entered the arena via a loading dock on the other side of the Dwightscape.

It’s best they keep coming and going that way. Really.

Ebanks suspended

Former Lakers forward Devin Ebanks was suspended for two games by the NBA after pleading no contest to driving under the influence.

Ebanks will serve the suspension at the start of the season if he makes the Dallas Mavericks’ roster. He signed a non-guaranteed contract with them last month as a training-camp invitee.

Ebanks was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor DUI last November in Los Angeles after leaving a nightclub. He spent his first three pro seasons with the Lakers but was not re-signed after last season.

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan