There's nothing to see here. Seriously.
If it's possible to measure a team's quality by the quiet of its training camp, the Lakers may not lose a game this year. Roughly two weeks in, we're very nearly entering tumbleweed territory. There aren't any significant position battles to monitor, no growth of a doe-eyed number one pick to measure, no KG/T-Mac Injury Watch! to document. This is great stuff for fans- drama/conflict/injuries/uncertainty are bad things- less so for the media.
That the Lakers seem unconcerned about our plight seems a little selfish, but what can you do?
Today was another bad day for those hoping for controversy. One of the big early narratives has centered around Lamar Odom and the potential distractions of his big pre-camp wedding, given the tabloid interest in the whole affair. To this point, though, it's been a non-issue. Odom's fitness coming in was, particularly by his standards, high, thanks to a summer of core work and boxing. Nor has any celebrity hubbub affected the team. "He's been just fine," Phil Jackson said after practice Monday afternoon in El Segundo. "Absolutely nothing (in terms of distractions). He's been upbeat and very productive in practices."
No question, Odom's wedding raised some eyebrows for all sorts of reasons, some more valid than others. Talking to the media today, whether intentionally or not, Odom gave a reminder that in all things context matters, and it can be very personal.
"I've been through a lot worse than getting married, you know? Even though some of it was whirlwind, things happen fast. In my life, they've always happened," he said. "Ever since I was 12, then 16. Having my grandmother then not having my grandmother. Then children, and going through things. (Note: This is a reference both to his living children and his infant son who died in 2006) Who knows? You want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. As a man, stepping into manhood, I just try to be prepared for everything that comes my way. I think I was able to do that this summer, just to prepare myself."
There was a long, quiet pause as Odom thought about what he'd just said, while we finished writing it down and wondered if he'd say anything else. "Damn, that was good," he smiled. "I'm outta here!" He pretended to head to the locker room, ready to leave on a high note of maturity and wisdom. It was another example of Odom's unique personality. The seven or so minutes he spent with the media started with some friendly New York vs. LA smack talk regarding the upcoming Yankees-Angels ALCS, moved on to personal fitness, became more introspective as he spoke not just about his history but also his relationship with Jackson (see the video below) and ended with a joke rather than leave things on a heavier note.
Whatever you think of Odom or his nuptials, concerns that his Hollywood life would scuttle his work and the team's along with it appear in the early going unfounded, with no indication that'll change. He certainly sounds like someone who understands what's in front of the squad. "We want to think like an experienced group of guys. Ready and willing for anything. We feel like we are," he said. "We took pride in (the fact that) not too many teams that lose in the championship can get back and win. But now we expect (to win). We're the Lakers. We won a championship, and now you want to feel that again. And again, and again, and again, and again, and again. We want to get back to that point where we can stay and play on a championship level every game, every minute, every possession."
That's at least one contract extension's worth of "agains" in there, by the way, if you're keeping score.
In other news...
- DJ Mbenga practiced again today, a welcome addition to PJ's practices. "He's running better," PJ said. "He'll get it back by tomorrow. He changes our practices around. He gives us a physical aspect, he's a contesting defender, and that makes it tough for (players in scrimmages)." Barring injury, it won't likely translate into more PT for Mbenga when the season begins- "I don't see how that would happen," Jackson said- because the minutes just aren't there. But it gets to an important point about the role of LA's bench players, something that to their credit the team's top end players make sure to mention whenever possible: Guys like Mbenga and Josh Powell may not play much, but they make practices far more competitive, improving the production of the guys who do. Depth isn't simply about who gets put on the court, it has a few different utilities.
- Regarding Sasha Vujacic, PJ said there were signs of improvement with his shot,but there's a lack of consistency. "That's something that comes and goes. We're looking for the rest of his game to improve."
- Jackson took an opportunity to crack on Luke Walton, when asked about how he's looked so far. "Luke's been good. We always know that Luke hurts himself in training camp, so we're watching him closely. He doesn't have one (right now), so don't talk about it."
VIDEO:Odom on his fitness:
Odom again, on his relationship with Jackson. It's an interesting clip.