NEW YORK — No matter whom Kobe Bryant guards this season the opposing coach goes right at him.

Gilbert Arenas scorched him up for the majority of his 60. Michael Redd scalded him for 45, Wade fricasseed him for 40. Vince Carter barbecued him for 31 in three quarters before Maurice Evans came to his rescue. And Gerald Wallace and Matt Carroll (career high 27) combined to pan-sear him for 55.

Watching ESPN’s highlights you would’ve thought Kobe, who busted the Bobcats for 58 consensual points, ruled supreme. Only if you watched Wallace (suffered a separated right shoulder last night in Indy) and Carroll abuse him would you know what really went down:

Kobe can’t stop a lost soul. Of course, that becomes contagious.

The Lakers surrendered 58 first half points to a team that is second to last in league scoring, and were hushed-hushed in three overtimes, 133-124, in sweet Charlotte; Emeka Okafor, 22 points and career-high 25 boards.

In other words, yet another loss to another sub-ordinary outfit while giving up in far excess of 100 points, and it’s not like Friday was the second of a back-to-back.

The Lakers lost at home to the injury-exhausted Hornets, the only victory on that road tour for New Orleans; all the others were double-digit defeats. Lost to Portland sans Brandon Roy. Lost to Milwaukee at home when the Bucks were groping for gravity. What’s more, their loss to the Heat was Miami’s lone victory against a team better than .500 since Shaq went out of service.

I know, Kobe’s surgically repaired knee restricts his mobility, especially lateral movement. Then again, it didn’t seem to inhibit him from uncorking 45 field goal attempts.

What does it say, in a 63-minute game, when L.A.’s second-leading scorer, Luke Walton, amassed all of 14 points?

The team dreadfully misses Lamar Odom, that’s for sure. They’re 4-5 without him while he nurses a knee ailment (due back in mid-January) and 7-22, overall, minus his unique versatility and you-first creativity.

Kobe craves Laker leadership. Consequently, he must shoulder the blame when his team comes out flat against lesser competition. That’s all I’m saying.

This just in: Kobe is the only player in league history to notch 58 and yield 60 in the same month, maybe ever.

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The root of tension between Mike Bibby and Ron Artest — aside from the hyper-active forward clogging the crossing (over) guard’s driving arteries with post-ups — may be as elementary as the emergence of Kevin Martin as the Kings’ official scorer.

Meaning fewer shots for both.

Meaning management is entertaining offers (a passing point vs. a maker of plays for me, first) for Bibby and Artest; will Geoff Petrie hear a higher bid than Corey Maggette, and, if not, will that suffice ultimately?

Chuck Daly’s spirited support of Isiah Thomas in The New York Times may have been a mite disingenuous. During the offseason Thomas told me he planned to hire his former Pistons coach as a Knick consultant.

My burning question regarding the Juanita/Michael Jordan divorce: Who got custody of Ahmad Rashad?

Sixer fans feel the trade of Allen Iverson puts them in a win-win situation; they’re happy if the team is successful yet they’re not unhappy when the team losses because it gives them a better chance at next June’s pick of the litter.

I don’t want to suggest the Nets caught Miami at the right time Friday — no Shaq, no Dwyane Wade — but Pat Riley offered major minutes to Bea Arthur.

James Posey twice has been suspended for roughing up Bulls, Kurt Hinrich in last year’s playoffs and Luol Deng last week. Each overt act of aggression cost him (68G per game).

Clearly, something is going on between the two teams above and beyond normal competition. In fact, Riley accused Hinrich of a “dirty play” that resulted in Wade spraining his right wrist when the two got entangled in a screen.

David Stern has shown how harsh he can be when hostilities escalate into a brawl. Tackling it beforehand, I suggest, might be more effective. It’s called preventive medicine.

Before the Nuggets agreed to include Andre Miller in the Iverson deal, they were all over the map in an effort to move Nene’s $60 million, six-year guarantee. More than one “insider” claimed sources said Trail Blazer president Steve Patterson was interested.

I know his father from his days running the front office of the Lew Alcindor-Bucks. So I concocted a quote, saying Ray Patterson assured me he didn’t raise an idiot, and included it in a bonus Hoop du Jour e-mail that’s distributed several times a week.

Next day I get an e-mail from Steve Patterson. “My parents and my kids got a kick out of your note but Ray wants you to know that’s only his public stance,” it said.

Mike Tyson was busted for cocaine possession Friday in Arizona. Apparently he’s part of some sort of nasal research experiment and felt he needed it to watch the Knicks play the Suns later that evening.

Hey, the man speaks the truth. It’s written all over his face.

Farcically, Tyson was in that same slammer a while back, urging impressionable youth to avoid drinking and drugs. Way I figure it, Tyson is on course to becoming the first person ordered to perform community service to himself.

Peter Vecsey covers the NBA for the New York Post.

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