Odom and Lakers adopt positive attitude

Lamar Odom replaced Andrew Bynum in the starting lineup when the big man went down with an Achilles injury 11 games ago and more recently has replaced Bynum as the Lakers' resident pregame bookworm, as he's taken to reading the self-help book "The Secret" in the locker room prior to tipoff.

Based on his comments after Monday's practice, it seemed as if Odom has been reading "The Power of Positive Thinking."

"The Western Conference has been tough, right, the last three years?" Odom asked a pack of reporters who were looking for another Laker to identify a chink in the team's armor a day after Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant admitted they were "concerned" about how the Lakers were playing.

"And we've won it the last three years," Odom continued. "I would say we're right where we want to be."

Odom's optimism is a welcome outlook for a Lakers team that has dropped five of its last seven games heading into Tuesday's game against the Sacramento Kings and Wednesday's season finale against the Clippers.

It would be naive for Odom to truly believe everything is hunky-dory with the way things have been going -- the injuries, the losses, the inconsistencies that seem to plague the Lakers even when they win -- but you can't blame a guy for trying.

Late Monday night, the Lakers learned they will be playing the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round (that is, if they were even watching the Thunder lose to the Trail Blazers to lock themselves into the eighth seed; the Lakers have been talking a lot about "just concentrating on us" lately).

Odom's positive thoughts may be crucial to the Lakers' effort to defeat the rowdy bunch of upstarts from Oklahoma City. When it comes to the postseason, Thunder players aren't just happy to be here, they're happy, period. And young. Their starting lineup consists of the 21-year-old Russell Westbrook at point guard (in his second year), the 25-year-old Thabo Sefolosha at shooting guard (in his fourth year with just nine playoff games under his belt from his days in Chicago), the 21-year-old Kevin Durant at small forward (third year), the 23-year-old Jeff Green at power forward (third year) and then Old Man Winter, 26-year-old Nenad Krstic at center (fifth year, 15 career playoff games with New Jersey). And two of the first guys off the bench are a pair of rookie 20-year-olds in James Harden and Serge Ibaka.

It's a group that hangs out at the mall together, posts videos of teammates lip synching songs in their hotel rooms to Twitter, and went from a 2-24 start in 2008-09 to a playoff team with a shot at 50 wins this season.

The Lakers, a group of accomplished veterans who are a little numb to success and to the spoils of the NBA lifestyle, will need to match their enthusiasm and momentum.

"The one thing that has allowed all of us to remain positive and optimistic about the situation is that we're still in this together," Derek Fisher said, carrying the torch of encouragement along with Odom. "As long as we're in this together, we can figure out some of the things that are going on in relationship to how we're playing basketball."

Odom started spreading his optimistic message last week before the Lakers traveled to Denver and Minnesota for a two-game road trip, noting that Los Angeles was "sitting pretty" with the No. 1 seed in the West secured, and adding, "our heads are held high."

On Monday, when Fisher was asked about losing the No. 2 overall seed to Orlando, he spun the situation in a positive light as well. "If we win our home games, we make it to the Finals and that's a good place to be," he said.

Pretty. High. Good. So many cheerful comments in the midst of what some on the outside see as a moment of crisis.

Odom and Fisher are acting as the team's two-headed Tony Robbins.

"We're not pleased or OK with how we've been playing," Fisher said. "We're not waiting to hit some magical switch or button. At the same time, we're not going to panic and stop believing in ourselves because we're struggling right now. That's not how it works. We got to continue to believe in what we can accomplish and will accomplish and even in the face of adversity and struggle, remain positive and focused on what our goals are."

When Odom was asked about his pregame reading material, he said "The Secret" has had an impact on him:
"Not just on the court, but off the court, in life. It's a good way to look at things. I always have a positive outlook on everything I do."

The Lakers have to hope that positive outlook will be the secret to success in the postseason.

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com