WASHINGTON (AP) — All smiles after an all-too-rare victory, Kobe Bryant got a locker-room visit from Attorney General Eric Holder, who wanted to know how the Los Angeles Lakers' point-guard-by-default was holding up.
"I'm beat up," replied Bryant, who sat at his locker with a cold pack on his bothersome back, wraps on both knees and feet in a plastic tub filled with water and ice. "Trucking along, though."
Straining to work out the kinks in an offense coach Mike D'Antoni compared to dancing with two left feet, the Lakers ended a four-game losing streak by holding off the worst-in-the-NBA Washington Wizards 102-96 on Friday night, thanks in large part to Bryant's 30 points and seven assists, along with Jodie Meeks' 24 points.
"We're not there yet, we're not even close. We're not close to being a good team," said D'Antoni, who at one point stomped his foot in anger at his 10-14 club. "But can you build on it? I hope so."
He also called his players "lackadaisical" and "lethargic."
Bryant made only 9 of 29 shots, and he took one particularly painful tumble to the court, but his performance also included one real highlight-reel play. With a little under 1½ minutes left, he sneaked in from the 3-point arc to tip in a missed free throw by Dwight Howard, who was 4 for 8 at the line and finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds.
"All night, I'm missing easy shots left and right, and I have no idea how that one went in," Bryant said.
Howard kiddingly called it "a set play ... called '12 Miss,'" a reference to his uniform number.
He and Bryant appeared to get into a heated exchange on court during a break in the action; Howard said they were discussing defensive strategy after a breakdown.
A night after joking about wanting to face the Washington Generals, the Harlem Globetrotters' longtime foils, Bryant almost got more than his team could handle against the Wizards.
Led by reserve Cartier Martin's season-high 21 points, Washington led by as many nine points in the first half and, after trailing by as many 16 in the second, closed to 92-89 on Nene's free throws with 5½ minutes left in the game.
But Howard made a jump hook, and then, with 4½ minutes remaining, Martell Webster was called for a foul on Bryant on a 3-point attempt, even though a replay appeared to show no contact.
"Controversial call. ... I don't agree with it," said Webster, who scored 17 points.
Said Wizards coach Randy Wittman: "I thought there were some very questionable calls down the stretch, but those things tend to do that — go their way."
Bryant made all three free throws, and the Lakers were on their way, awkward offense and all.