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Kobe Bryant active, effective in first quarter of exhibition opener

Kobe Bryant active, effective in first quarter of exhibition opener
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant looks on during a game against the Atlanta Hawks in December. (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

Kobe Bryant's first shot was an air ball. Almost everything after that quickly answered some questions.

He had six points and four assists in the first quarter Monday against the Denver Nuggets, his first game action in almost 10 months.

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True, it was only an exhibition opener for the Lakers. Emphasis on exhibition.

But when he checked out with 3:19 to go in the first quarter, his followers had to be impressed. Or relieved. Or something in between.

His first shot drew some gasps from the crowd at the old San Diego Sports Arena, a turnaround from the top of the key that hit the very bottom of the net. Without going through the top.

Yes, an air ball.

He was better on the next possession, drilling a 14-foot turnaround from the left side. And a couple of minutes after that, with a long two-pointer almost at the arc.

The play that everybody will talk about took place near the midpoint of the quarter. Bryant tumbled into the courtside seats while diving for a loose ball, almost taking out a fan who wore a purple T-shirt with Bryant's name on the back.

At the very least, he was willing to hurl his allegedly beaten body into an old rickety chair that wasn't nearly as kind as the soft padded ones at Staples Center.

Bryant's other basket in the quarter was a turnaround from the right side over the much shorter Randy Foye.

He was solid as a distributor, offering a nice drop-off pass to Carlos Boozer for a short hook shot.

After Nuggets forward Arron Afflalo got erased by a screen and Kenneth Faried jumped out to defend, Bryant found Jordan Hill alone on the left side for a short jumper.

After that, Bryant kicked to Wesley Johnson alone in the right corner for an easy three-pointer and found Hill underneath for a dunk with a perfect bounce pass.

Bryant looked the part even on plays that didn't go his way. He almost picked Erick Green clean but was called for a foul. Another time, he backed Afflalo down in the right block and turned quickly to his left, but the shot rimmed out.

He had one turnover in the quarter, called for traveling while sizing up Wilson Chandler on the right side.

The Lakers trailed at the end of the first quarter, 29-27, primarily because Denver made 10 of 17 shots.

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Bryant did not play in the second quarter and the Lakers trailed at halftime, 54-51.

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