Payton, Malone set the tone in Kobe's absence


LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The new-look Los Angeles Lakers didn't need
Kobe Bryant to do what they always do against the Dallas Mavericks.

With Gary Payton leading the fast break and Karl Malone
providing plenty of everything, the Lakers put aside their
squabbles and defeated Dallas at home for the 26th consecutive time
-- 109-93 Tuesday night.

"Well, they're awesome," Dallas coach Don Nelson said. "Even
without Kobe they have enough firepower to dominate the league."

Payton had 21 points and nine assists, and Malone added 15
points, 10 rebounds and nine assists to barely miss the fourth
triple-double of his career. Both received standing ovations when
they left in the fourth quarter, with Bryant among those lavishing
the two newcomers with applause.

Shaquille O'Neal, Derek Fisher and Devean George -- three of the
holdovers from last season's Lakers -- each added 16 points.

"Unbelievable. All that firepower. We've got cannons, rockets,
missiles, you name it," Lakers forward Bryon Russell said.

Bryant, engaged in a public feud with O'Neal, sat out because of
soreness in his surgically repaired knee and did not join his
teammates on the bench until the end of the third quarter. At that
point, the Lakers were already receiving a standing ovation, and
the crowd cheered even louder as Bryant was shown on the main

Wearing a red T-shirt that clashed with the Lakers' gold
jerseys, Bryant sat alongside O'Neal for the start of the fourth
quarter and stayed on the bench for the rest of the game. He said
he and O'Neal had patched things up.

"We're cool. We talked this morning. He said what he said, I
said what I said. We put it behind us," Bryant said. "Shaq and I
are going to move on, be teammates and help this team to a fourth

It was Bryant's first public appearance at the Staples Center
since the Lakers were eliminated during the second round of the
playoffs. Bryant stayed in the locker room during the Lakers' two
home exhibition games.

Perhaps what made Bryant emerge was watching the way his
teammates meshed during the third quarter, their best sequence
ending with an over-the-head backdoor pass from Malone to Payton
for a reverse layup. Malone had seven points, five rebounds and
five assists in the quarter, which ended with the Lakers ahead

The Mavericks, who were led by 19 points apiece from Dirk
Nowitzki and Antoine Walker, never threatened in the fourth

"When Kobe comes back they're going to be very dangerous, but
they're going to have to jell as well," Walker said. "I think
tonight they played off adrenaline and emotion. This was a big game
for them with the controversy they had, so we'll see if they can
keep it up through the season."

Bryant said he expects to play Saturday night at Phoenix in the
Lakers' first road game.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson addressed the crowd prior to tipoff.

"I kind of miss the ring ceremony we've had the last couple of
years, and we hope to provide you with a team that will get us
another one," Jackson said.

The Lakers certainly looked championship-caliber in the opening
minutes, racing out to a 17-4 lead as Dallas missed its first six
shots. An alley-oop dunk by O'Neal off a pass from Payton made it
23-8, and Dallas could only close the gap to 55-45 by halftime.

Los Angeles opened the second half with a 12-3 run that ended
with Fisher coming up with a steal and then assisting on a
fast-break layup by Malone. That made it 67-48 before the Mavericks
answered with a 10-0 run.

They never got any closer, however, in losing to the Lakers for
the 45th time in their last 50 meetings overall. Dallas hasn't won
in Los Angeles since Dec. 12, 1990.

"That was exciting to see. Hopefully the fans loved it,"
Malone said. "We're going to get better and better as we get
things down and our execution gets better. We're going to make a
run at this thing."

Game notes
Nowitzki got a major haircut, ditching his long blond locks
in favor of a buzz cut. ... Lakers rookie Luke Walton picked up
three fouls in his first 2:05 of playing time. ... Malone's last
triple-double was in 1999 against the Clippers.