Here are your 10 additional things to take away from the Lakers' 106-98 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday ...
It was a weird game for Kobe Bryant from the very start.
After deciding to play against Minnesota after not practicing all week on his bum left ankle, the lack of time on the court showed. He looked pretty rusty. Bryant was 0-for-5 in the first quarter for zero points with a turnover while his main defensive assignment, Wolves rookie Wesley Johnson, went 5-for-6 while scoring 14.
He found a little rhythm in the second quarter by hitting consecutive 3-pointers with less than a minute remaining, but then didn't make it out of the locker room at halftime in time to start the third quarter, leaving Shannon Brown to fill in a the two in his place.
"He was detained," said Lakers head coach Phil Jackson, somewhat cryptically, when asked what held Bryant up.
"I was just stretching [my ankle] out," Bryant explained. "It was really stiff so I made sure I got a good stretch."
Bryant made a couple more shots in the second half (and Johnson made a couple more as well, finishing with a career-high 29), but it was a shot he took to the face when the back of Martell Webster's head collided with Bryant's cheek that could have some ramifications long after the Lakers have forgotten about the T-Wolves.
"I got hit in the jaw, but my jaw is fine. I can take a hit," Bryant said after the game, in a foul mood despite the win. "It was just that my neck snapped back. My neck is pretty stiff right now."
Even with the ankle and the neck working against him, Bryant finished with 18 points, five assists and four rebounds in 28 minutes as he kept up his streak of not missing a game all season.
L.A.'s next game is Sunday against the Portland Trail Blazers, who Bryant scored 37 against in an overtime win in the Lakers' second game after the All-Star break.
"I'll be ready, for sure, I promise you that," Bryant said. "I'll be more than ready."
Jackson said that Bryant's quickness was hampered by the ankle and it affected his defense against Johnson and he'll discuss with his reigning Finals MVP about having to sit out to heal up.
"We’ll talk about it," Jackson said. "I’m sure he’s going to say no, but we’ll definitely talk about it and see how he’s doing, if there’s anything bothering him."
The Lakers have now won three straight games since Bryant's much-publicized late-night shooting spree in Miami, but Bryant is still waiting for his shot to return to him.
"That’s not respectable," Jackson said of Bryant's 6-for-17 shooting line Friday.
In his last three games, Bryant is a combined 19-for-56 (33.9 percent).
His swollen left ankle that suffered what Bryant described as the scariest sprain of his 15-year career against Dallas, hasn't helped things.
"I don’t know if he’ll use it as an excuse, but I thought his timing was off," Jackson said. "His shooting was off."
Bryant didn't make excuses and he didn't seem too concerned about the mini slump either.
"I just had to get my rhythm, really," Bryant said. "I didn’t practice for the last three days or shoot or do anything. So, I kind of had Bambi legs out there for a little bit, just trying to get my rhythm down. But, I’m OK."
Brown had been going through a shooting slump that was similar to Bryant's, only involving far fewer attempts and two healthy ankles. Coming into Friday, Brown was 8-for-24 (33.3 percent) in his last four games before breaking out of it with 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting against the Wolves.
"People understand that he can shoot the 3-point shot," Jackson said before the game, explaining Shannon's struggles. "They’re putting him to drive a lot more. Shannon has kind of a unique set-up [for his shot]. It takes him a little time to get it off and in that process people are trying to jump him a little bit and make him get active and get him off his spot."
Bryant's stretch at halftime benefited Brown more than anyone, as he scored six of his points in the third quarter starting at shooting guard in Kobe's place.
"Shannon thanked me for it later," Bryant said.
It will be important for Bryant to get his shot straight as soon as possible, because there might be more attempts coming his way for the next game or two after the way Andrew Bynum was ejected for a flagrant 2 foul on Friday.
Click here to read all the details about Bynum's foul on Michael Beasley that got him tossed. The Lakers will await word from the league office on Saturday to hear whether their emerging big man will be suspended any additional games for the foul or not.
Beasley might have only gotten into a brief physical collision with Bynum, but he verbally sparred with Ron Artest all night.
Artest openly criticized Beasley's development earlier in the season and he seemed like he had a chip on his shoulder when defending the Wolves' third-year forward.
At one point Artest joined in the crowd's "Airball! Airball!" chant when Beasley failed to hit rim on a shot attempt, taunting him on their way back down the court and on another occasion in the second quarter Artest was called for a technical foul for repeatedly telling Beasley, "You can't stop me!" among other things after scoring a layup with Beasley defending him.
"I thought Ron got a little out of character there," Jackson said. "We had a talk at halftime. He got back in and I thought played the second half in character again. There were some disrespectful things going on out there that happen sometimes and I think it upset Ron a little bit, but I think he ultimately got back and did the job defensively that we wanted to see done."
Beasley finished with 18 points on 6-for-14 shooting, finishing below his season average of 19.1 points (although he did not play the game's final six minutes after falling hard on his hip after the Bynum foul).
You never quite can tell when Jackson is going to choose to get a tweak in. After Pau Gasol scored a team-high 25 points on 12-for-17 shooting, Jackson said, "He’s such a nifty offensive player that on a night like to tonight we could have just really struggled if no one else had an offensive game besides Pau."
But later in his press conference, Jackson repeated the stigma about Gasol (and Bynum) being somewhat soft.
"I think we’re a very tough team," Jackson said. "Where we’re not tough, or not known to be tough, is with our bigs. All our other guys -- Kobe, Fish, Ron -- are tough guys."
Gasol took it in stride.
"That just tells you how funny Phil is, how entertaining Phil is," Gasol said. "He just does it for his own amusement, to get a kick out of it."
Jackson defended his former assistant coach, Kurt Rambis, before the game for the tough time he's had in his first two seasons in Minnesota.
Jackson said the team promised it would be trying for a championship while the moves made by general manager David Kahn reek of rebuilding.
"Wasn’t it about how you build a championship with a general manager and the whole bit?" Jackson said, citing commercials the team ran when Rambis took the job. "And then there’s nothing spent. They still have a payroll that doesn’t reflect that idea of going after [the title]. It’s hard to measure the words with the actions. It doesn’t look like they’re really acted that way. They’ve acted towards accumulating young, raw talent, which is hard to coach."
The Wolves' $53.1 million pay roll is nearly $40 million less than that of the back-to-back champion Lakers' this season.
Who has been the most influential person to the Lakers this season? Jackson? Bryant? Owner Dr. Jerry Buss? How about longtime Jackson friend and sports psychologist George Mumford? Mumford spoke to the Lakers at shootaround before they won in Boston last month and was back at Lakers practice Thursday to observe. His presence leading to a win against Minnesota isn't quite as impressive as the win that followed against Boston the first time he came around, but then again, the Wolves game looked like it could end up as another embarassing home loss (along with Indiana, Milwaukee and Memphis) for a while, so maybe ol' "Mumfie" brought with him some good vibes.
"We had some unusual characters on that team and bless them wherever they’re at right now." -- Jackson reflecting on the state of the Lakers when he took over the team for a second time in 2005-06.
Stats of the night: L.A. swept the season series against Minnesota, 4-0 and has now won 15 straight against the Wolves ... After giving up just five turnovers against the Magic on Monday, L.A. had 16 on Friday leading to 22 points for Minnesota.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.