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The DJ Mbenga era begins with a bang!

January 22, 2008 | 12:04 pm

Or a "beng," if you're into the pun thing. 

But no matter what your phrase of choice, it doesn't change the fact that a 116-99 score equals the Lakers putting the wood to Denver.  What the Lakers didn't put to Denver, however, was a barrage of Kobe Bryant shots, the approach some might have expected with their rotation growing even more shortened due to Trevor Ariza's broken foot.   Instead, Kobe felt the game out and decided on an assist-heavy approach, racking 11 dimes and keeping Denver awkwardly on their heels. The most sensational of these passes was a behind the back beauty to a cutting Ronny Turiaf, but the most prolific recipient of Bryant's sharing was Derek Fisher, who tallied 28 points and hit six of his seven attempts from downtown.  Fisher began the game in the zone and, along with Jordan Farmar,  sparked a long distance bomb drop to put Lakers back in charge after Denver made a third quarter run.  From there, it was all about protecting the fans' free tacos, which were within a hairsbreadth of being lost.  You won't know simply from looking at the box score, but newbie Laker Mbenga's second block of the night was the Mexican grub clincher.  If you're out to become a crowd fave, that's the way to do it.

Speaking of "crowd faves," Kwame Brown was anything but that last Thursday against Phoenix.  But come yesterday's contest, all appeared to be forgiven, as #54 was cheered during his starter's intro and the warm reception continued throughout.

As mentioned earlier, Trevor Ariza's foot is done busted up, putting him on blocks for eight weeks. Complicating matters is the health of other primary small forward Luke Walton, still battling a slow healing ankle injury of his own.   Don't be surprised to see a fair amount of Kobe and Lamar Odom at the three spot during this period.

Depending on who you ask, the oft-rumored to become a Laker Chris Webber is either on the verge of joining the Pistons or still a long way from reality.  In any event, the Pacers appear to be a highly  improbable destination.