Andrew Bynum Returns, Kobe Bryant Shines As Lakers Beat Wizards

Bynum scored seven points, grabbed four rebounds, and had two blocked shots in 17 minutes in his first game of the season.

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Lakers Vs. Wizards: Kobe Bryant Leads L.A. To 103-89 Win In Andrew Bynum's Return

Washington, DC (Sports Network) - Kobe Bryant scored a game-high 24 points, as the Los Angeles Lakers topped the Washington Wizards, 103-89, at the Verizon Center. Lamar Odom scored 18 to go along with 10 rebounds, and Pau Gasol added 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for the Lakers, who have won five of six. Shannon Brown scored 16 in a reserve role for Los Angeles, which topped the Wizards, 115-108, on December 7.

Nick Young led Washington with 21 points, and JaVale McGee scored 12 and grabbed nine rebounds for the Wizards, who have dropped five straight. Gilbert Arenas and Al Thornton both finished with 11 points in defeat. Washington held a 24-22 lead after a back-and-forth first quarter.

The Lakers opened up the second with a 10-0 run, and after a pair of Gasol free throws in the final minute the Lakers' lead was 55-42. Young responded with two straight baskets, but Gasol's jumper in the final second accounted for the 57-46 Los Angeles lead at the break. Young continued his consistency against the Lakers with 17 first half points.

The Lakers continued to widen the gap in the third quarter as a Bryant three- pointer at 3:56 made it an 80-64 game, and after a McGee layup, Bryant went on a nine-point outburst -- bookended with two more triples -- to push the Los Angeles lead to 23, 89-66, their largest of the game. The teams traded baskets in the final 1 1/2 minutes and the Lakers lead was 92-70 heading into the final stanza.

The fourth quarter was all but a formality as Bryant watched from the sidelines, while the Lakers' lead never fell below 14. The Lakers are now 3-1 on a seven-game road trip...Los Angeles has won nine straight in this series...The Wizards were without John Wall (knee) and Andrey Blatche (knee) and lost forward Yi Jianlian (sprained knee) in the first quarter.

For more Lakers news and analysis, be sure to read the SB Nation blog Silver Screen and Roll.

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Report: Lakers Close To Trading Sasha Vujacic For Joe Smith

Wednesday, December 15, is the first day in the NBA that free agents who signed this summer can be dealt, and the Los Angeles Lakers appear to be active on the opening day of trading season. The Lakers are close to finalizing a three-way trade with the New Jersey Nets and Houston Rockets that will in essence trade Sasha Vujacic and his salary for Joe Smith, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.

According to the report, the Lakers will trade Vujacic and their 2011 first-round draft pick to New Jersey, and receive Smith. The Nets will also trade Terrence Williams to Houston for the Rockets' first-round pick in 2012. Vujacic makes over $5.3 million in the final year of his contract, and the motivation for this deal appears to be financial. Salary cap expert Larry Coon of ESPN.com estimates the trade will save the Lakers $9.24 million, including the luxury tax.

Vujacic has seen his minutes decline in the last two seasons, and has played poorly ever since signing a three-year contract after the 2007-2008 season. This season, Vujacic is averaging just 4.9 minutes per contest, and has fallen behind Shannon Brown and Steve Blake in the guard rotation off the bench. Vujacic has shot just 38.9% from the field since the start of the 2008-2009 season.

The 6-foot-10 Smith figures to give the Lakers some much-needed front court depth, especially with Theo Ratliff out after left knee surgery. The Lakers are getting another boost tonight, with the return of center Andrwe Bynum in Washington D.C. Smith has played in just four games this season, totaling all of 25 minutes. The Lakers will be the 12th team Smith has played for in his vagabond career.

For more Lakers news and analysis, be sure to read the SB Nation blog Silver Screen and Roll.

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Lakers Vs. Wizards: The Return Of Andrew Bynum

(Sports Network) - The Los Angeles Lakers could get some help inside tonight, as center Andrew Bynum is expected to make his season debut against the Washington Wizards at the Verizon Center. The Lakers went 17-7 in 24 games without Bynum, who is back after undergoing offseason knee surgery. Bynum needed a meniscus injury in his right knee repaired and sustained the blow in Game 6 of the Lakers' first-round playoff series against Oklahoma City last season.

Bynum played in 65 regular-season games for Los Angeles last season, posting a career-high 15.0 points with 8.3 boards per game, and helped the storied franchise to its second straight NBA title. LA is 2-1 on a seven-game road trip and recorded its fourth win in five tries with Sunday's 99-92 triumph in New Jersey. Kobe Bryant scored a game-best 32 points and handed out six assists, while Lamar Odom ended with 22 points and seven rebounds for the Lakers, who are 7-5 as the visitor this season. Pau Gasol had a double-double with 15 points and 11 boards in the win.

"Well, tonight we did a good job," Bryant said. "We spaced it out and we got the ball in isolation, we didn't have guys stand around and watch. We did a much better job of that and as of late we've been losing games because we're not doing that. It's a good win for us." Derek Fisher chipped in 10 points in the win. Fisher has played in 437 straight regular season games dating back to April 15, 2005, the longest consecutive games streak among all active NBA players.

The Lakers will also visit the Pacers, Sixers and Raptors on the trek. Washington will try to put the brakes on a four-game losing streak when it takes on the mighty Lakers tonight. It is coming off Friday's 101-95 setback versus the New York Knicks in which Gilbert Arenas recorded 20 points to lead the way. Arenas is averaging 19.5 points, 5.8 assists and 3.7 rebounds during the last 15 games.

Nick Young scored 17 points, while Andray Blatche returned from a two-game absence to post 16 points in defeat. Blatche, however, will miss tonight's game because of a swollen left knee. "We came out flat in the third quarter, those first two minutes," Wizards coach Flip Saunders said. "They came out and knocked down four shots. All of a sudden they got a three-point lead. It got their crowd into our game and we couldn't sustain and get anything."

Rookie John Wall posted eight points, six assists and five rebounds for Washington, which has dropped eight of nine games. He is still bothered by knee and foot issues and is listed as questionable for this evening's contest.

Los Angeles defeated the Wizards, 115-108, on Dec. 7 this season at Staples Center and has won eight straight in this series. The Lakers are unbeaten in their last four trips to DC and had a chance to meet with President Obama on Monday. Obama congratulated LA on winning its second straight title.

For more Lakers news and analysis, be sure to read the SB Nation blog Silver Screen and Roll.

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