SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – When Kobe Bryant was limited in training camp because of offseason knee surgery, the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t know how long it would take for their star to find his usual form.
Apparently, five games was enough.
Bryant had 30 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds to help the Lakers win their fifth straight game to open the season, 112-100 over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night.
“I thought he might start off struggling to find some rhythm and he would build some rhythm as things went,” teammate Derek Fisher said. “To see him play this well this early, he’s on my team, so that’s good for me. But that’s not good for everyone else when he’s playing this good this early.”
Pau Gasol added 22 points and 11 rebounds, and Lamar Odom scored 18 for the Lakers, who have won seven straight against their Northern California rivals.
But Bryant was the star. He had his 17th career triple-double and first since Jan. 21, 2009, against the Clippers. He had just two triple-doubles the past five seasons, but needed only five games after offseason knee surgery to get one this season.
“I just feel better. I feel fine,” Bryant said. “I’m 100 percent.”
The Kings wouldn’t argue.
They had won three of four to begin the season for their best start in seven years. That brought hope among Sacramento fans that a rivalry that had grown stale in recent years could be rekindled to what it was a decade ago when these teams were annually among the top contenders for a title.
But the Lakers dealt the young Kings a dose of reality that beating Cleveland, Toronto and Minnesota is a little different than going up against the two-time defending NBA champions.
“The Lakers don’t even know who we are right now,” coach Paul Westphal said. “We would like to build a rivalry with the best team in the world. … We’ve got to win some games before there’s a rivalry. They’re where we want to be.”
A 3-pointer by rookie DeMarcus Cousins and a basket by reigning Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans helped Sacramento get within six early in the third quarter. The Lakers responded with a 13-1 run that gave them a 79-61 lead and essentially put the game away early. Ron Artest hit a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 20 points.
The Lakers have scored at least 107 points every game this season and turned the ball over only six times against the Kings as the offense looked in midseason form.
“It’s just picking up where we left off,” coach Phil Jackson said. “Kind of generating energy from the championship season, going out with a lot of knowledge of what we want to do.”
The Lakers got a scare late in the third quarter when Odom was hunched over in pain holding his left hand. He was tended to by the training staff and quickly returned to the game and made a 3-pointer, showing no ill effects.
Just when it appeared as if the Lakers could rest their stars on the back end of back-to-back games, the Kings rallied to cut the lead to 99-92 on a layup by Evans with just under 4 minutes to go.
Fisher answered with a 3-pointer and then got a steal for a three-point play that made it 105-92 with 3:14 to go. Bryant converted a three-point play when he pump-faked to draw a foul on Luther Head and then made a jumper that hit the rim and backboard before falling in to generate cheers from the large contingent of Lakers fans on hand.
“Big play Derek,” Odom said. “The Yankees got Derek Jeter, we got Derek Fisher.”
Evans scored 21 to lead the Kings. Francisco Garcia, Carl Landry and Beno Udrih each added 17.
Bryant hit a pair of 3-pointers over Evans in the opening minutes and then turned into a distributor. He had six assists in the first quarter as the Kings struggled defensively against the Lakers.
The Kings opened a five-point lead midway through the second quarter when Bryant went to the bench for his usual rest. He returned to convert a four-point play over Evans on his first offensive trip.
That started a 15-3 run that included seven points from Bryant and an alley-oop pass to Odom. The Kings went nearly six minutes without a basket and trailed 62-53 at halftime after Bryant fed Matt Barnes with a full-court pass for a layup at the buzzer.
“He’s the best player in the game right now,” Landry said. “He went out there and played hard, carried his team throughout the night and gave them the win.”
Notes: Bryant and Garcia had words midway through the fourth quarter after fighting for a loose ball. Garcia was called for a foul on the play. … Bryant played 37 minutes to give him 37,528 in his regular-season career, breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s franchise record of 37,492. … California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson watched from courtside seats.