ONTARIO, Calif. (AP) — When Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant finally emerged from the Los Angeles Lakers' locker room late in the first quarter, they got a standing ovation just for walking to their seats.
The Lakers' fans shouldn't worry. Their big stars expect to be out of street clothes and back in uniform very soon — and for much bigger games than an exhibition in the Inland Empire.
Damian Lillard had 14 points and seven assists in his first NBA action, and the Portland Trail Blazers ran to a 93-75 victory over Los Angeles in a preseason game Wednesday night.
The Lakers visited their avid fans an hour east of Los Angeles with just 60 percent of their projected starting lineup in uniform. Bryant sat out to rest a strained right shoulder, and Howard isn't playing during his deliberate return from offseason back surgery — although he was healthy enough to join in the "Kobe! Kobe!" chant that erupted in the first half.
"I feel pretty good, but I keep telling you guys, I want to be 110 percent," Howard said. "I have to make sure I'm in great shape, and my conditioning is where it needs to be. It's a process, and we'll get there."
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, but Portland surged to a 13-point lead in the third quarter while the Lakers' three healthy starters were still playing.
"We're finding out our strengths and how to combine them," Gasol said. "We have two main guys out, and they make a big difference, so we'll have to see how we play when we're full force."
Bryant said he tweaked his shoulder while dunking on Antawn Jamison 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.
Continue reading this story on the...