Springtime in Lakerland

ESPN's Shelley Smith reports on the attitude at the Laker practice facility in El Segundo yesterday:

Lakers forward Luke Walton poked his head out of the weight-room door gazed out onto the court. The Lakers had just finished a highly-spirited 90-minute practice, which had players trash-talking and woofing like they were on the playground instead of the slick hardwood of one of the jewels of the NBA.

"Lamar," Walton yelled at Lamar Odom, who was engulfed in television cameras and reporters. "You gonna win championships out there, or in here?"

Responded Odom: "In there." And then, under his breath laughing, "He's a jerk."

Times and smiles are good in LA-LA land as championship hopes spring eternal once again. This time, though, the Lakers wont creep up on anybody. Last year, without Andrew Bynum, they were counted out before advancing to the NBA Finals. This year their young fireball is healthy, albeit wearing a purple and gold knee brace.

Perhaps, just as importantly the player one assistant called the Lakers' "secret weapon," Trevor Ariza, is back.

This will be Bynum's real indoctrination to the playoffs (he played briefly in the Phoenix series two years ago) and he admits he has no idea what to expect. Asked if he is worried about having too much emotion, wanting to play too hard, Bynum responded: "Lucky for me I'm a center, so the harder I play, the closer to the rim I get. The harder play, the better I do."

Derek Fisher also realizes what spring can bring to the city.

"When springtime rolls around, flowers start blooming and Laker lags come out," he said. "If we take care of business the number of flags grow exponentially from round to round. So it's like one out of every four cars to two out of every four cars to three out of every four cars. They're in every car if you make it to the Finals. So hopefully we can have Laker flags on every car in southern California."

Odom was particularly bothered by reports that Kevin Garnett might miss the playoffs because of injury. Not so much because he'd like another go-round with the Celtics' fiery big man, but because he respects Garnett and hates to see him go out because of injury. Phil Jackson echoed the sentiment, saying he hates seeing the "Ginobilis," etc., because you don't want championships decided by injuries.

Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher sat out practice because Jackson said he wanted them to have two days' rest. Odom did practice to give them a ten guy scrimmage. Jackson said Odom "strolled" through it, although Odom's shirt was soaked in sweat before he finally headed in to lift weights with Walton.