West Showdown

Kobe Bryant remains a member of the Los Angeles Lakers - for now.

With the most recent trade rumor put to rest, Bryant will turn his attention to helping the Lakers try to earn their first win Friday when they visit the Phoenix Suns, who have knocked Los Angeles out of the playoffs each of the past two seasons.

Oddsmakers from Bodog.com have made Phoenix -9.5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 217 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 78% of bets for this game have been placed on Phoenix -9.5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

Two days after Bryant scored 45 points in a 95-93 season-opening loss to Houston at home, Chicago squashed a rumored three-team deal Thursday in which the Bulls would get the nine-time All-Star, who slammed the Lakers' front office and asked for a trade in the offseason.

Though trade talk involving Bryant is likely to continue, he insists he won't let it bother him or his teammates.

"When we're playing in a game, we just focus on one another and the bonds that we have," said Bryant, who was booed by his home crowd Tuesday. "It has nothing to do with (trade) speculation or business or anything like that.

"Business a lot of times can cloud the game and take the fun out of the game if you allow it to. And that's something that I won't allow to happen."

He'll also try to help the Lakers (0-1) avoid a seventh straight regular-season road loss to the Suns (1-0), who are again expected to challenge for the Western Conference title and coming off a 106-99 season-opening win at Seattle on Thursday.

Phoenix eliminated Los Angeles in five games in the first round last season after rallying from a 3-1 series deficit two seasons ago against the Lakers.

"They're expecting to win a championship and they're a team that really gets under our skin in terms of knocking us out of the playoffs the last two years," Bryant told the Lakers' official Web site. "We're going to go in there ready to play with a chip on our shoulder and see if we can't do some damage."

Bryant averaged 32.8 points on 46.2 percent shooting in last year's playoffs against the Suns.

On Tuesday, Bryant was 13-for-32 from the field and just 18-for-27 from the free-throw line for the Lakers, who shot 60 percent (27-for-45) from the line and had just one other player in double figures.

Derek Fisher scored 17 points in his return to Los Angeles, which is without Lamar Odom, who will miss the first few games while recovering from shoulder surgery. Odom also suffered a slight concussion in an automobile accident Tuesday.

Bryant will renew his rivalry with Raja Bell, who had a tough assignment in Phoenix's season opener Thursday. Bell helped guard SuperSonics rookie Kevin Durant, who scored 27 points.

Amare Stoudemire had 23 points and 11 rebounds to lead three Phoenix players who posted double-doubles against Seattle. Steve Nash had 18 points and 12 assists, while Shawn Marion added 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Suns, who won despite being outrebounded 50-44 and committing 20 turnovers.

Grant Hill had 13 points and five assists in his Phoenix debut.

"On this team, anyone can make the big plays," said Phoenix reserve Marcus Banks, who added 12 points.

Stoudemire, who played for just third time since undergoing knee surgery a month ago, averaged 24.2 points and 13.6 rebounds in the playoffs last season versus the Lakers.

The Suns return for their home opener Friday after going 33-8 at U.S. Airways Center last season - their best home mark since 1993-94. Phoenix has won 11 of its last 15 home openers.

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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