Kobe Still Kobe On Basketball Court

Wednesday, October 31st 2007, 7:23 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Malcontent or not, on the court with a basketball in his hands, he's the same old Kobe.

After being greeted by some booing during pregame introductions, Kobe Bryant had the Lakers fans on their feet cheering him when he led a late comeback against the Houston Rockets.

Los Angeles came up short, with Shane Battier's 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left helping the Rockets hold off the Lakers, 95-93, Tuesday night in Rick Adeleman's debut as the Houston coach.

``Kobe is Kobe. He is just the best in the game,'' Battier said. ``I don't know what's happening here in L.A., but when he laces it up, regardless of what happens elsewhere, he is going to bring it for 48 minutes.''

Bryant, who during the offseason called the Lakers' front office ``a mess'' for not acquiring some new players and asked to be traded, scored 18 of his 45 points in the fourth quarter to help the Lakers come from 14 points back.

They caught the Rockets at 92-92 on Derek Fisher's jumper with 13 seconds remaining.

Battier answered with his 3-pointer from near the right sideline, then, after the Lakers called timeout and inbounded the ball to Bryant, Battier quickly wrapped him up. Bryant made the first of two free throws and deliberately missed the second and the ball came to him, but it was knocked away as time expired.

Tracy McGrady scored 30 points, Yao Ming had 25 points and 12 rebounds, and Battier had 11 points for the Rockets.

In the other NBA games Tuesday night, San Antonio beat Portland 106-97, and Utah cruised past Golden State 117-96.

Bryant was happy just to be starting the regular season, with all the off-court fuss put aside for a while.

``When we're playing in a game, we just focus on one another and the bonds that we have,'' Bryant said. ``It has nothing to do with (trade) speculation or business or anything like that.

``Business a lot of times can cloud the game and take the fun out of the game if you allow it to. And that's something that I won't allow to happen.''

Bryant said the pregame boos didn't bother him.

``I understand where they're coming from, but they really don't know the entire situation because I just keep my mouth shut, as I should,'' he said. ``They shouldn't worry about it, just focus on watching us play and watching us do what we do, and the business side of it should remain behind closed doors.

``But it was good to see them come back to normal later in the game.''

Lakers owner Jerry Buss said recently that he would listen to trade offers for Bryant, and asked if he believes he will be with the team all season, Bryant replied, ``We'll see. If I am, I'm going to give it 110 percent every night, always. I don't worry about it. I think about playing.''

Adelman said he was pleased with the Rockets' overall play, but added, ``We didn't finish very well.''

``It's hard when Bryant keeps getting on the line and the clock stops,'' he said. ``We've got to have better composure, handle the ball a little better than we did in the last part of that game.''

Adelman praised Battier for his 3-pointer, and his critical foul in the waning seconds.

``He's hit big shots in the past, so it's good it went to him,'' the coach said. ``We wanted to foul before he (Bryant) took the shot and we definitely did that. He hadn't even turned around yet when Shane fouled him.''

Bryant was 13-of-32 from the field and 18-of-27 from the line. The Lakers missed 18 of their 45 free throws.

Spurs 106, Trail Blazers 97

Tim Duncan had 24 points and 13 rebounds, and host San Antonio got its title defense off to a successful start. Tony Parker added 19 points for the Spurs and Manu Ginobili had 16 points and eight assists.

LaMarcus Aldridge led Portland with 27 points. Martell Webster added 21 and Joel Przybilla had 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Before the game, the Spurs held the final celebration of their fourth title in nine seasons as coaches and players received their championshipship rings _ 14-karat gold and bearing almost 4.5 carats of diamonds.

Jazz 117, Warriors 96

Carlos Boozer had 32 points and 15 rebounds, Deron Williams added 24 points and visiting Utah jumped right back into last season's playoff form.

Ronnie Brewer scored 18 points and Paul Millsap added 16 for the Jazz, who reached the Western Conference finals last spring with a five-game victory over Golden State in the second round, ending the eighth-seeded Warriors' unlikely playoff run.

Utah outrebounded the Warriors 56-37 and constantly capitalized on Golden State's mistakes. The Jazz led through most of the final three quarters, then coolly turned back Baron Davis' attempts to start a fourth-quarter rally.

Davis had 25 points and 10 assists for the Warriors. Mickael Pietrus and Monta Ellis scored 17 points apiece.