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Wednesday, October 29, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
By Chris Sheridan
LOS ANGELES 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 last 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 had 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 scored 16 points.
Bryant, engaged in a public feud with O'Neal, sat out because of soreness in his surgically repaired knee and did not join 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 scoreboard.
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.
"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 title."
The Mavericks, who were led by 19 points apiece from Dirk Nowitzki and Antoine Walker, never threatened in the fourth quarter.
Earlier in the day, Lakers coach Phil Jackson fined Bryant an undisclosed amount for his highly critical comments of O'Neal, and the team met for 20 minutes to discuss a rift between two superstars that has escalated into a full-blown feud.
"There were no signs or indications that it would snowball the way it has in a matter of 36 hours, so we'll see what happens from here," teammate Derek Fisher said.
Bryant castigated O'Neal during a telephone interview with ESPN on Monday, calling him "childlike," "unprofessional," "selfish," "fat" and "jealous." He also accused the 7-footer of overstating the severity of his foot injury last season when he reported to training camp overweight.
Bryant's comments came a day after O'Neal said the Lakers were "my team," adding that Bryant needed to be more of a team player an observation based on two exhibition games.
At practice Monday, Jackson ordered the team not to discuss the dust-up with reporters. He fined Bryant for defying that order by talking to ESPN later that day.
Adding another layer of tension for the team is the publicity brought by the sexual-assault charges against Bryant.
Bryant's first appearance in Colorado District Court will be Nov. 13, the presiding judge said yesterday.
The hearing was originally scheduled Nov. 10, but Mark Hurlbert, Eagle County District Attorney, asked for a postponement until Nov. 24 or Nov. 26 because he said he had a previous commitment.
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