Kobe Bryant played just 6 minutes as his Los Angeles Lakers lost 111-92 to the Minnesota Timberwolves as the crowd’s calls for Phil Jackson to play the future Hall-of-Famer fell on deaf ears.

With the vast majority of the 18,000 spectators wearing the famous purple and gold, it seemed like the Lakers had a kind of home court advantage.  And just seconds after cheering at the top of their lungs for the introduction of the famous number 24, the fans were once against screaming as Mamba found Lamar Odom for a jam with the very first play of the game.

Mr Kardashian hit 13 of his team-high 17 points in the first half – but it was a huge one-handed jam from NBA Dunk Contest participant Shannon Brown that made the ESPN highlight reel. But that was as good as it got. What followed was an unsatisfying exhibition that made good on Bryant’s view that it would be no more than a “public scrimmage”.

Kobe sat after just 6 minutes having racked up only one rebound, two assists and a steal. Pau Gasol also played limited minutes over the first two quarters (perhaps due to his 3 fouls), notching 5 points, 1 rebound and 1 assist.

The Timberwolves, meanwhile, were led by a very impressive first-half performance from Team USA forward Kevin Love (9 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists). The second year big man – who is going to have to carry much of the load if the T-Wolves are to better their league-worst 18 wins of last season – was a force. However, he had plenty of help. Newly-acquired forward Michael Beasley had 21 points and impressed in his first appearance since his trade from the Miami Heat.

As the first half ticked to an end, the Lakers’ Trey Johnson hit a three at the horn – sending the arena nuts. But a video replay clearly showed it was after the buzzer, meaning L.A. led by 56-55 at the break.

In the second half, Beasley came out like he meant business – banging a three and making a tough layup with the foul straight away. But he also found himself on the wrong end of a highlight as he slipped whilst trying to defend Lamar Odom on the fast break. Odom skipped comically (much to the crowd’s delight) as B-Easy floundered on the floor in front of him. Only Darko Milic could spare his blushes as he swatted Fisher’s subsequent three-point attempt into the crowd.

But the embarrassment only seemed to spur Beasley on, as he took his scoring total to 21 at the end of the third as a 10-2 run helped open up a commanding lead.

Meanwhile, the crowd were starting to become increasingly frustrated with Kobe’s lack of playing time – making noise every time his face was shown on the big screen and breaking into chants of “KOBE! KOBE!” The Lakers could have used him on the floor too as they suffered a 14-point negative swing to find themselves down 87-74 going into the final period.

Phil Jackson clearly wasn’t bothered – refusing to put Bryant back into the game during the fourth, sending his fringe unit as long-shots like Drew Naymick got some burn.

With 5 minutes left, Gasol did make another appearance (and quickly threw down a baseline 180). But it was all too little too late – the T-Wolves’ lead was insurmountable and they ran away with a 111 – 92 win. The crowd booed as the final buzzer sounded.

“We had plans to hopefully play [Kobe] in two stints,” Phil Jackson told MVP after the game. “But he iced down at half time. I probably should have let the announcer know that – so that the people weren’t so upset.”

The Lakers coach added that Gasol “just didn’t play well” and that he was unhappy the team “gave such a poor exhibition.”

Kobe himself said he’d felt a “sense of responsibility” to get out on the floor and play, but that the knee is still causing him problems (he said it’s currently “at 60 percent”).

Asked if there were any positives to be taken from the game, Bryant simply replied “No. To be honest it was just another practice.”

T-Wolves coach Kurt Rambis was far more upbeat. “The guys did a really good job in the effort department,” he said. “We want our young guys to learn how to play hard. They didn’t always play well tonight – we had way too many turnovers – but in terms of the execution, it was a pretty good job for first game.”

“The guys were nervous playing under the lights and playing an NBA champion team,” he added.

The Timberwolves now head to Paris, where they play the Knicks on Wednesday. The Lakers meanwhile will take on Pau Gasol’s former team, FC Barcelona, on Thursday.

Stern adopting wait-and-see approach for future

NBA Commissioner David Stern admitted that next March’s regular season games in London are solely an experiment. The Toronto Raptors meet the New Jersey Nets on March 4 and 5 at the 02 Arena, the first time the league has taken competitive fixtures to Europe. But will it be a one-off?

“The answer is I don’t know,” he said. “It is a start in London in March and we hope to see more of those if we possibly can. We have played regular season games before, in Tokyo and in Mexico City, so it is not entirely new to us.”

Stern will lobby for Great Britain to be given a host berth at the London Olympics. And he believes the Games might increase the popularity of the sport to a wider audience.

“It’s no secret that the UK trails other European markets in development, but we think this is a great market and participation rates are increasing,” Stern said. “That’s why we have our (European) headquarters here in London, and we think the Olympics provides a huge opportunity to demonstrate that this is a sport of great inclusiveness.”

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