Not that you'd expect anything different about two and a half hours into the first practice of the first day of the season, but there wasn't a ton of news coming out of El Segundo this afternoon. The biggest was probably with Lamar Odom, who clarified/expanded on comments made at Monday's media day regarding the possibility of him coming off the bench. Fair to say he didn't like the idea. He still doesn't, nor would you expect him to, really, but made it clear at the same time he's not interested in being a distraction.
"It's not about me right now, at the end of the day," Odom said. "You see what I'm saying? It's not about sacrificing when you're winning. If you want to win, you can't expect to get every rebound, every loose ball when you've got the talent we've got out there. I don't call it sacrificing when you're winning, you're just playing together, and I don't think it'll be a problem for us to play together. It's not right for me to be selfish. I walk into the locker room, and I'm like, 'This team is going to win a championship, and I want to be a part of that.' "
Still, the free agent-to-be finds himself squarely in the cross hairs of basketball's "politics and business," and Odom, never one to underthink a situation, understands the situation. "It's definitely conflicted emotions," he said. "I might wake today feeling one way, then wake up tomorrow feeling another way. This is the team I want to be with, this is the coach I want to play for, these are the guys I want to be around.
I wouldn't worry about Odom's reaction to the whole "sixth man" concept, at least not until it becomes something the Lakers want to do, but he's a sensitive guy. He's certainly used to being the subject of near-constant trade rumors, but the contract status adds a new wrinkle.
Moving on, we didn't have a chance to catch up with LO Monday, so he gave a little background on his summer:
- Odom spent the summer trying to get healthy, letting his tendinitis in the knee "calm down," and heal up his shoulder. "I feel good right now. Sometimes with that tendinitis, the best thing to do is absolutely nothing. Just lay on the beach with some good company. A Corona, if that's your preference," Odom said with a laugh. "Then build back up from the beginning."
- On the adjustment to the wing: "I prefer the mismatch. This year, I'm going to be taking the ball out, pushing it out, and making plays happen. Kind of facilitate, and that's what I like to do anyway. It's the strength of my game... Defensively, it shouldn't be a problem because guys that are quicker than me, I can just run them into the seven footer and take their guy. It's going to make us so much better defensively that I'm looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to showing people that I can play a complete game without shooting 25, 20, or 15 shots, because you've got players around you who are going to compliment what you do. On a team like this, I'm going to be able to control the game with taking eight shots, getting 12 rebounds and eight assists, scoring 10 points a game. It's going to be a lot of fun playing with guys like this."
- In that sense, Odom is the perfect compliment to what the Lakers are doing, precisely because he isn't looking for shots. I know we had this debate all summer, but for the Lakers to bring in another player (Ron Artest for example) who wants his points and likes to shoot had the risk of upsetting the apple cart, so to speak. The Lakers already have three strong offensive options in Bynum, Gasol, and (of course) Kobe. Theoretically, at least, this is the perfect environment for Odom to thrive, as he did over the second half last year. It won't be cheap at $14 mil, but that's not really the issue.
- On rebounding, Odom said that with Andrew Bynum back, the giant frontcourt, and healthy backups in Chris Mihm and DJ Mbenga, the Lakers shouldn't have any problems controlling the boards.
In other news...
- Set up perfectly by a reporter who asked if the whole PT thing could help motivate Odom, PJ couldn't help but make a joke at LO's expense. "I don't know," he smiled. "I've never seen Lamar motivated before."
- Kobe and Pau watched the end of the morning practice as their teammates completed wind sprints. They spent that time playing one on one against each other, with Kobe posting and trying to launch fadeaways over the limb-y Spainaird. PJ made it clear that those two would be on a reduced schedule in the early going, to try and keep them fresh after their Olympic experience. Jackson also strongly implied that at least initially, Kobe's run in the preseason games could be short, perhaps very short. Keep that in mind when purchasing tickets.
- Kobe spoke about his finger, and said at this point, there's nothing about it that limits him. He'll be rolling without tape this season, and has regained much of the strength in his hand thanks to some very focused exercises. There's some pain if it gets hit, but "I don't worry about it at all."
- Chris Mihm was very encouraged by his first practice. "It's the first time since March (of '06), when I originally injured the foot." He's regained his trust in the foot, though Mihm said he never really lost it after each surgery, just to end up disappointed. This summer, he "stressed" it extensively, and "it responded better than I ever could have anticipated. Zero pain the whole summer."
- He's also looking at free agency after this season. "As far as the contract goes, that kind of stuff takes care of itself if you can play. I just want for myself, more than anything, to get out there and play and have fun again, and not be frustrated nursing frustration with my foot."
- Between him and Trevor Ariza, himself healthy after foot problems of his own, they can finally turn in their walking boots. "Maybe we'll have a bonfire," Mihm said. "It would be a lot more fun."
- Finally, it was interesting to see both Dr. Buss and Jimmy at practice today. Both were smiling, and Jim told me he's completely stoked to get things underway. The guy has a serious basketball Jones, it's fair to say.