Playing in Utah? Sounds like fun! and other Wednesday practice nuggets
The Lakers put in a healthy day's work ahead of their flight to Salt Lake City this afternoon for tomorrow's Game 3. From our standpoint, there wasn't much to see since instead of being let in for the tail end of practice, players were brought to us in the media room before PJ and Kobe were later made available on the floor. No surprise, most of the chatter centered around what guarantees to be a hostile reception for the purple and gold tomorrow. Not that Lamar Odom is too concerned. Personally, he digs this sort of thing.
"I expect it to be fun. For us. Playing in a hostile environment is going to remind me of home. I'm from Queens, so I'd play tournaments in Brooklyn and all over, and there's gonna be talking and in your face. But that's what we live for," he said.
Yeah, but that's a different kind of fun than going to Six Flags or sitting down to watch 30 Rock.
"It's competitive. It's a little different than a good game of Monopoly, or something like that. It's a different kind of competition, you know? Somebody telling you that they hate your guts, and then you can make a spin move and make them go "Ahhhhhh!" in the same breath? You know? That's the rush that you get from playing on the road."
Odom then brought it back, as he often does, to his upbringing back in NYC. "I was probably like nine years old when I played in my first basketball tournament, playing 15 and under. Getting beat, getting beat up. Now to be playing at the professional level, a lot of people that I've played against, played with, that want to see me get this done at this level, as far as the playoffs, and trying to play for a championship. It's a great position to be in, and I do it with a lot of pride."
Good stuff. Reminds me of my hoops upbringing, playing 7th and 8th grade basketball in suburban St. Louis. Basically the same thing, I figure.
Kobe, at this point famous for his love of playing in hostile environments, echoed LO's sentiments. "It's a challenge, being in a tough atmosphere where everybody is pulling against you. It's relaxing. It's fun," he said. "The more they boo me, the more they heckle me, the more they relax me and the more I play better."
"You would think they'd know that by now."
Don't look for Jazz fans to get the memo before tomorrow's tip, though it would be a really interesting tactic to see if they could throw Kobe off his game by being really supportive and polite. The weirdness might just do the trick, because I can tell you from talking to guys around the league that Jazz fans have a well earned reputation for being incredibly abusive. Add in that all 20 thousand or so in the house seem to sit about four inches from the court, and the burly factor rises.
One guy who would know? Derek Fisher. Returning to Utah last year, he was greeted with some most tasteless, cruel heckling from certain fans at EnergySolutions. I'm talking about fans covering one eye and reportedly chanting "Cancer" in reference to Fish's then-infant daughter, whose illness prompted Fisher to exit his contract with the Jazz and facilitate a move to a city where she could get better care.
Time has passed, but those incidents are still a topic of conversation. Fish, though, believes the ugliness of last year is in the past. The Q and A on that topic:
"I think it's transitioned from more of a "personal" boo to a "you're on the Lakers" boo. I think people have had time to deal with my not being on the team, and my family transition away from Utah. I think all that's behind everybody for the most part. Everybody knows the story, and knows the deal. Now it's Jazz-Lakers, so there's always been that basketball hatred from one team to another, and it'll definitely be there tomorrow."
Did some of those "personal" boos that you talked about stick with you for a little bit? Because obviously some of the things you heard were pretty cruel.
"The first time (we were there), yeah. It was shocking and caught me off guard, and was disappointing, but between the first time we went back (last season) to the second time, there was a huge difference just in the way I saw it, the way I felt it. I think I had come to grips myself with the fact that there wasn't anything else that I was going to be able to say or do, and even better, I don't have to feel obligated to try and convince somebody of the reasons why we made the decision we made. So I think once I got to a place where I was okay with it, it didn't really matter how other people responded."
How long did that take?
"I think that game was good for me personally, just to have that experience and understand that our world is not created in a way where you can please everybody, you can do things that are going to be what everybody likes for you to say or do. So I think it was good for me to have that experience. And it probably took a couple weeks after that to really gain some understanding in terms of me looking at myself and what I was feeling, and then from there, it's been really smooth in terms of feeling comfortable with what has happened and why it happened and that life really has moved on in a major way."
The best news, of course, is that Fish reports that his baby girl is "doing great," making all of her medical checkpoints, and they're optimistic as a family that Tatum will, knock on wood, continue to stay healthy.
On Andrew Bynum, Phil Jackson chalked up his struggles after a strong first quarter to fatigue, and noted the coaching staff is trying to get him to expend a little less energy in his pregame routine. Regarding reports that Bynum is still feeling pain, it's something that the team knows about, and is obviously watching carefully. Nothing, though, seems to be wrong in a capital W sense.
"Some of it is the brace. Wearing the brace, the inhibiting of the brace in the motion. I think it's all capable of working (itself) out, but he did not work very much on the court today at all."
Asked if he thinks his issues are related more to the aforementioned fatigue more than pain or the brace, though, Jackson was quick to reply. "Yes."
Phil Jackson, talking about playing in Utah, continuing to build, and the need to get Pau Gasol more touches inside. All this comes up about 2/3 of the way through, when I asked him about LA taking advantage of the mismatches he creates on the offensive side of the ball, whether being guarded by Carlos Boozer or Paul Millsap.
Kobe Bryant, on playing in Utah, Trevor Ariza's improvement as a shooter (something he helped him with):
Pau Gasol, on Game 2 and what needs to happen in Game 3: