LOS ANGELES — The Lakers were in a hurry after Tuesday's practice, giving perfunctory comments in brief interviews with reporters. They had somewhere better to go.
A few miles away, Kobe Bryant was about to be recognized by the NBA as the league's most valuable player, an award 12 years in the making that became official at a hotel ballroom.
Bryant won comfortably over third-year New Orleans guard Chris Paul, collecting 1,100 points to Paul's 894 and, more telling, 82 first-place votes to only 28 for Paul from the panel of 126 media members. Boston forward Kevin Garnett finished third (670 points, 15 first-place votes).
Bryant was ecstatic, humorous and perhaps even relieved as he accepted the award, which will be given to him again tonight, this time by NBA Commissioner David Stern before Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals at Staples Center.
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Numerous teammates, coaches and Lakers staffers attended Tuesday's ceremony, as did owner Jerry Buss, general manager Mitch Kupchak and former GM Jerry West.
Bryant thanked his family, his teammates and then recounted an unpredictable ride that started with wanting to leave the Lakers last May and fast-forwarded to him at a podium, fielding questions about the feeling of winning his first MVP award.
"I get goose bumps thinking about it," he said. "It's been a long ride, coming in here at 17 years old and standing here almost 30. ... I'm very proud to represent this organization, to represent this city."
Bryant also said he wanted to add another award in say, mid-June.
"It's Hollywood. It's a movie script," he said. "The perfect ending would be for us to be holding that championship trophy at the end of it."
CELTICS 76, CAVALIERS 72, at Boston — Kevin Garnett scored 28 points to make up for an off night for the rest of Boston's Big Three in a win over Cleveland in the opener of the Eastern Conference semifinals. LeBron James was held to 12 points on 2-for-18 shooting. James also had 10 turnovers.
TIP-INS — The NBA admitted Chauncey Billups' 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter of Monday's Detroit-Orlando playoff game, which gave the Pistons a 78-76 lead in a 100-93 win, should not have counted, but said referees weren't allowed to review instant replay to determine that. ... Houston guard Tracy McGrady had arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder and left knee.