LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Kobe Bryant told everyone he loved them. For
another night, at least, everyone loved him back.
Cheered from the moment he stepped off the team bus, Bryant got
in some much needed work with his All-Star teammates Friday night
as the Los Angeles Lakers lost 93-87 to the Sacramento Kings in the
final exhibition game for both teams.
Bryant played 23 minutes and scored six points on 3-of-10
shooting. He spent the entire fourth quarter on the bench getting
his right knee wrapped and his legs massaged by a trainer as the
Lakers reserves rallied to make the game close.
To the crowd that greeted him with signs proclaiming his
innocence on rape charges, though, all that mattered was he showed
up to play.
He did more than that, going out to midcourt before the game,
microphone in hand, to thank the fans for the display of affection.
"I want to thank everybody for coming out," he said. "Enjoy
the season, enjoy the game. Thank you for your support. I love you
All the Lakers starters sat on the bench for much of the fourth
quarter after the Kings opened up a 74-58 third quarter lead. But,
with reserves playing for both teams, the Lakers went on a 15-0 run
to close to within a point before a 3-pointer by Anthony Peeler
broke the Kings' scoreless drought with 7:28 left.
Bryant, who played for the first time Thursday night at home in
the Lakers' loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, started alongside
All-Star teammates O'Neal, Payton and Karl Malone.
They were all politely received, but the crowd of 18,234 -- the
first sellout ever of a Lakers' exhibition game in Las Vegas --
seemed mostly interested in seeing Bryant.
"It's fun to just get out there and play," Bryant said.
Fans climbed up a wall and held up signs to welcome Bryant as
the Lakers' team bus arrived at the UNLV campus arena. One fan held
up a sign reading "The underwear tells the truth -- Kobe is
Bryant was cheered when he got the opening tip, cheered when he
took -- and missed -- his first shot and cheered loudly when he got a
slam dunk off a feed from O'Neal midway through the first half.
"My comfort is there. My legs aren't there yet," Bryant said.
"My legs are just tired. I'm just trying to get in shape."
He played nearly nine minutes in the first quarter, and the
final seven minutes of the second. When the crowd saw him go to the
scorer's table to re-enter the game, they began chanting "KOBE,
Bryant was even cheered at halftime, when a fan decked out in a
one of his No. 8 jerseys was chosen to take part in a shooting
The Kings, playing without injured Chris Weber and Vlade Divac,
more than held their own against the All-Star cast of Lakers, who
sometimes seemed to have trouble figuring out who should be where
on the court.
After Stojakovic hit a 3-pointer in the first minute of the
second half to give the Kings a 55-45 lead, a miffed Phil Jackson
called a quick timeout to school his team on defense.
It was the second loss in two nights for the Lakers, who didn't
have all four of their superstars on the floor at one time until
Thursday night's loss to the Clippers. The Lakers finished the
preseason 3-5, while the Kings ended it 4-4.
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