Lakers after deadline...
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant put up his best performance of the preseason Saturday, which, to be sure, isn't saying much considering he had been shooting 14.3% (four for 28) from the field before scoring 18 points on five-of-13 shooting against the Denver Nuggets.
But, initially anyway, the guard didn't want to talk about it.
"I feel silly even talking about shooting percentage in a damn preseason game," he said.
Then Bryant, who is recovering from offseason knee surgery, said his improvement is about getting back into a certain rhythm.
"Just getting strength, getting game legs," he said. "It's different doing all the running and conditioning and stuff like that, and getting in there and actually playing. [It's like] getting sea legs all over again."
Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said it's just a matter of time before Bryant will be back at full strength, though it's likely Bryant only will play about 24 minutes Sunday against the Utah Jazz, the same number of minutes he put in Saturday night.
Power forward Pau Gasol, who scored 12 points on six-of-nine shooting in 21 minutes, said Bryant "continues to get better, continues to feel stronger, and, like I said, it's always a big step forward as far as where he's at and how he feels."
One thing that Bryant was quick to talk about was the play of rookie forward Devin Ebanks, who Jackson has been praising of late. Ebanks played 24 minutes Saturday and scored 14 points on five-of-eight shooting.
"He looks impressive," Bryant said. "He's playing within himself, he's making all of the right plays, and getting all of the hustle points. He's making timely jumpers, defensively he's active. Very impressive."
Ebanks received extra playing time because guard Sasha Vujacic is out indefinitely after suffering a concussion during practice Thursday.
Said Ebanks on his comfort level and improvement: "It really just started in training camp. Just learning the plays, sitting down with the coaches and studying. And now I'm starting to get more comfortable in it."
-- Baxter Holmes
Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant pulls up for a short-range jumper against the Nuggets on Saturday night. Credit: Jayne Oncea / US Presswire