Bryant returns to preseason lineup, scores 20 vs. Sonics

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (AP) -- Kobe Bryant returned to the lineup and scored 20 points, 16 in the third quarter, to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 126-106 victory over the Seattle SuperSonics on Thursday night.

Bryant, who skipped some practices this week to rest his legs, sat out the second and fourth quarters but scored 12 straight for the Lakers in the third. He seemed to play to the pro-Lakers crowd, hitting a jumper with fans chanting "Kobe! Kobe!"

"The knee feels pretty good," Bryant said. "We just need to make sure we stay on top of it. That's why I came out and iced it. We're just going to monitor it and keep it under control."

The Sonics had cut the Lakers' lead to five before Bryant's run, but after he dunked an alley-oop from Ronny Turiaf, Los Angeles was ahead 79-64.

"The first half, he was kind of feeling his way out as a playmaker," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "In the second half, he got down in the scoring position and started going at the natural aspect of his game."

Turiaf scored all of his 13 points in the first quarter for the Lakers, while Andrew Bynum added 19 for the Lakers, who led 64-47 at the half.

"I'm enjoying my teammates," Bryant said. "We're having a good time."

Rookie Kevin Durant finished with 18 points and Chris Wilcox added 16. Seattle center Robert Swift returned to his hometown and scored seven points.

Bryant appeared upbeat when he spoke to reporters before the game. He had mostly ignored the media since Lakers owner Jerry Buss stated last week that he "would certainly listen" to trade offers for the two-time defending NBA scoring champion.

When asked about his recent silent treatment, Bryant said: "Why would I need to bang my head against a wall?"

He missed some practice this week because of a sore knee, then said in his first formal interview since Buss' statement that it caught him off guard.

He repeated again on Thursday his desire to not discuss the matter.

"When I'm here, wherever I'm at, I'm ready to go," Bryant said. "It's not my job to worry about what management is doing at this point. I voiced my frustrations over the summer and I'll just leave it there."

Bryant asked to be traded 4 1/2 months ago, then avoided speaking about the Lakers until the beginning of training camp Oct. 1, when he talked more positively, saying he was looking forward to the season.

It seemed the parties had put negative feelings behind them before Buss made his comments to three beat writers last week.