A Cardinal, an Archbishop, and an E! camera crew walk into a practice...
Sounds like the setup for a joke -- not necessarily one you'd hear outside the Catskills, though a joke nonetheless -- but Wednesday in El Segundo it was reality for the Lakers. Among those inside the gym watching practice were Archbishop of Los Angeles Jose Gomez, and Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, Archbishop of Lima. (I suppose if any two people can be trusted not to reveal the game plan for Thursday's test against the Mavs, it's these guys.) Then, after the doors opened to the rest of us, the esteemed pairing was joined by a gaggle of production types filming Lamar Odom for his reality show.
I realize it gets said a lot, but this certainly qualifies as an "Only in L.A." moment.
"We have people come in and want to watch and stuff like that. Celebrities and so forth and so on, but that's was the first time in my 15 years that's happened," Kobe Bryant said. Given the wide stretch of his celebrity, I don't suspect Bryant's popularity needs a boost anywhere around the world, but if by chance Peruvian Catholics were lagging behind, say, the Chinese in their collective love for No. 24, today's events will certainly help.
One thing is certain: Having won 15 of their last 16 heading into Thursday's game, the Lakers haven't much need these days for divine intervention. And while not all hot streaks are created equal, this one feels good to Bryant. "Some runs are different, because sometimes you win games because you're just hot. You're shooting the hell out of the ball. Other times, you're doing it because of defense. Sometimes, a combination of both," he said. "In this instance, we're just minimizing mistakes. We're just executing well. This is not something where we're on fire, or hot. We're just doing our jobs the right way."
So it's sustainable?
I don't disagree, in part because while someone like Andrew Bynum has certainly elevated his game since the break, as a team the Lakers are thriving by doing many of the things they've done over the last few seasons. At some point, they'll lose games, but there's nothing inherently flukey about their streak. Good thing, too, because Thursday's game gives the Lakers an opportunity to continue pressuring San Antonio at the top of the conference, but more important salt away the No. 2 seeding. With a win, the Lakers would go up two games in the loss column on Dallas, while owning the tiebreaker. No way the Mavs erase that space with so few games remaining. No wonder Bryant, like Lamar Odom and Bynum, clearly identify it as an important 48 minutes.
Click below for vids from Odom and Bynum.
L.O., on the importance of Thursday's game, and how the Mavs have thrived this season despite a significant injury to Caron Butler:
Odom, on the concept of peaking too early:
On a side note, I got the sense today -- the first with the E! crew at practice -- Odom was a little more buttoned down. Not quite as jovial. A little more introspective. Could be camera awareness? Hard to say. I do know I had to sign a waiver so my face can legally be used on the Khlomar show.
I really hope it isn't.
Technically, I guess I could have refused, and made them fuzz out my head in post, but it didn't seem worth it. When the show airs, someone tell me if I made the cut. Had I known they were coming, I'd have worn nicer clothes.
Anyway... Bynum, on Dallas, and staying out of foul trouble: