After serving a one-game suspension, Kobe Bryant returns looking to give the struggling Los Angeles Lakers a lift Friday when they visit his native Philadelphia to face the surging 76ers.
Fresh Starts Suit Kobe
Kobe Bryant returns to the Lakers lineup after serving a one-game penalty for striking Marko Jaric. Bryant has traditionally played well when coming off a league-mandated suspension, topping the 40-point mark following each of his last two. A look at his back-from-banishment history:
*He's scored at least 43 points in each of last 2 games.
Los Angeles (33-29), which has lost four in a row and 10 of 13, can certainly use Bryant back on the court. The banged-up Lakers played again without starters Lamar Odom (shoulder) and Luke Walton (ankle), as well as reserve Ronny Turiaf (back spasms), in a 110-90 loss at Milwaukee on Wednesday.
While Odom and Walton remain out and Turiaf is doubtful for this game, Bryant will return Friday after serving his second suspension in just over a month for striking a player in the face after taking a shot.
He hit Marko Jaric during Tuesday's 117-107 double-overtime loss at Minnesota. Bryant was forced to miss a game after a similar incident involving San Antonio's Manu Ginobili on Jan. 28.
"We considered suspending him for multiple games," NBA executive vice president Stu Jackson said. "Certainly if this occurs again, most likely there would be multiple games."
Lakers coach Phil Jackson wanted Bryant to look at the suspension in a more positive fashion.
"I told him, look at it this way: You're going to have a night off, back-to-backs, we have five games in eight days, this is the middle of that period," said Jackson, whose team will close a four-game road trip Friday. "You're going to be able to come back and be strong."
Bryant, who averages 29.2 points, was averaging 34.0 points in the four games prior to his suspension. He definitely could have helped the Lakers on Wednesday.
"What do you think?" Lakers center Kwame Brown said. "Three championships, of course he is going to make a difference."
Bryant had 35 points on 15-for-22 shooting, plus eight rebounds and six assists, in the Lakers' 104-94 win over the 76ers on Dec. 31.
Injuries to other Los Angeles starters have led to increased minutes for Maurice Evans, who led the team Wednesday with 22 points -- well above his 8.7 season average. Brian Cook added 20 points and is averaging 18.7 in his last three games -- 11 more than his average.
"We're all NBA players in this room," Evans said. "We're all capable."
Los Angeles is looking to snap a six-game losing streak in Philadelphia, dating to an 87-84 win on Feb. 20, 2000.
Ending that streak won't be easy against the 76ers (23-38), the Eastern Conference's hottest team that has won a season-high five straight games. Philadelphia can complete a perfect a six-game homestand with a win Friday.
Andre Iguodala had 25 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for his third triple-double of the season and Joe Smith hit the game-winner with 14.4 seconds left Wednesday in Philadelphia's 92-89 victory over Seattle.
Iguodala is averaging 23.5 points and shooting 50.5 percent in his last six games following a three-game stretch in which he totaled 34 points on 7-for-36 shooting (19.4 percent).
Samuel Dalembert had a season-high 20 rebounds, including 12 on the defensive end, as the 76ers held an opponent below 95 points for the fourth time in five games.
"We can compete with any team in the league as long as we come to play and put a solid 48 minutes together," Iguodala said. "I think guys are still going out there thinking we can win every game."