Kobe-less Lakers A No-Show Again In Loss To Blazers
ONTARIO, Calif. (AP) — Damian Lillard had 14 points and seven assists in his first NBA action, and the Portland Trail Blazers capitalized on the absences of Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard for a 93-75 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in a preseason game Wednesday night.
LaMarcus Aldridge added 14 points and eight rebounds for the Blazers in their preseason opener under new coach Terry Stotts.
Steve Nash scored 13 points and Metta World Peace added 12 as the Lakers lost their second straight preseason game by double digits. Pau Gasol had eight points on 3-of-12 shooting.
Portland surged to a 13-point lead in the third quarter while the Lakers’ three healthy starters were still playing.
The Lakers visited their avid Inland Empire fans an hour east of Los Angeles with just 60 percent of their projected starting lineup. Bryant sat out to rest a strained right shoulder, and Howard isn’t playing during his deliberate return from offseason back surgery.
Lillard, the sixth overall pick in last June’s draft from Weber State, looked sharp in 24 minutes as Portland’s point guard, adding five rebounds and two 3-pointers. Meyers Leonard, the 11th overall pick out of Illinois, had 10 points and five rebounds off the bench.
Nicolas Batum had 12 points in his first game since returning to Portland with a four-year deal worth more than $45 million when the Blazers matched an offer sheet from Minnesota after Batum’s agent said his client wanted to join the Timberwolves.
Bryant said he tweaked his shoulder while dunking in practice Tuesday, but it didn’t start hurting until later that day. He wanted to play against Portland, but the team overruled him with six preseason games still left on its schedule.
Howard has refused to say when he might make his Lakers debut, but the six-time All-Star is participating in every practice with no apparent limitations. Howard worked out on the Ontario court with Lakers assistant coaches Chuck Person and Darvin Ham about 30 minutes before the game, delighting hundreds of early arriving, camera-wielding fans who didn’t get to see the Lakers’ two biggest stars in action.
The fans also gave a standing ovation to Bryant and Howard when they left the locker room to sit on the bench late in the first quarter.