Lakers rejoice as Bryant returns but Raptors crash party

Mon Dec 9, 2013 3:10am EST
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By Jahmal Corner

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Kobe Bryant's long awaited return to the basketball court began as a wild celebration on Sunday, but ended as a quiet reminder that the rusty All Star has more work ahead to get back to his brilliant best.

Bryant made his anticipated season debut in front of a frenzied Staples Center crowd, showing small hints of old form but mostly looking out of sorts as the Lakers were defeated by the Toronto Raptors 106-94.

In his first NBA action since he tore his left Achilles in April, the 35-year-old Bryant tested his surgically repaired foot during 28 minutes that saw him record nine points, eight rebounds and eight turnovers.

The Lakers all-time leading scorer made just two of nine shots and conceded that Sunday's return was just the first of many hurdles to come.

"I'm still feeling it out a little bit. My rhythm is completely out of sync," Bryant told reporters. "It's a start. The last time I had eight months off I was still in the womb."

Bryant's arrival was a rebirth of sorts for the Los Angeles crowd who showered him with boisterous cheers from the moment he walked into the arena.

He received a standing ovation during pre-game warm ups and chants of "KO-BE" filled the air prior to tip-off.

Looking less explosive than usual, Bryant picked his spots carefully and was more of a willing passer than aggressive shooter.   Continued...

Dec 8, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers center Jordan Hill (27) and Toronto Raptors power forward Amir Johnson (15) watch as the ball bounces out of bounds during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports