Most of what came out of practice, aside from boilerplate type commentary about tomorrow's game against the Nuggets at Staples, centered around Kobe Bryant's injured ankle. There were, though, a few nuggets of interestingness. First, from Lamar Odom. It's easy to see just by looking at him, but L.O. went ahead and copped to some fatigue, anyway. "We came right off this road trip, which was pretty hectic. We got one day of rest and of course had a game last night, then we're back at it with a back-to-back. It's a tough schedule," he said. Asked if it was more a mental or physical fatigue, Odom smiled.
"It's both. I'm tired."
Earlier, Phil Jackson had said as much, noting how the All-Star break is coming at a good time for his weary (and physically nicked) team.
But more than their physical state, I was interested in how the trip, combined with a brutal February schedule, might eliminate the "cockiness" Odom says the team has battled this year. "It helps, that confidence and cockiness when you find a way to win... but I think that's something we're working on as a group," he said. "How to be confident and not cocky. Confident is great. Cocky is dangerous."
Asked what can cause that mindset to change, Odom's answer was pretty simple. "Sometimes, losing."
Pau Gasol fielded similar questions about the pre-break schedule, which includes Friday night's game against the Nuggets, Saturday in Portland, Monday against the Spurs, and finally a visit to Utah Wednesday.
On the heels of the roadie and last night's game against another playoff caliber squad (in the Eastern Conference, but still in the top eight), Pau couldn't remember facing a nastier challenge from the schedule makers. "It's a very tough stretch. Very, very tough. We have to make sure we go one game at a time, and not get too far ahead of ourselves."
Straight from the cliche handbook. Asked about the team's injuries and how they'll make the job tougher, Gasol was more candid, and like Odom used language indicating the team's approach could be evolving. "These things make us stronger. And we've got to prove now what kind of team we are, if we want to be champions again."
A man could go nuts trying to divine meaning from games in January and February, as Andy and I discuss in the newest PodKast. When it comes to the Lakers the overall record is there, but a lack of road success (14-9 in '09-'10 vs. 29-12 in '08-'09) and good results against elite teams mitigates some of the excitement. (A year ago, the Lakers were a .721 team (31-12) against teams above .500. This year, that's down to .607 and 17-11.) Last season's championship is both a comfort- the experience, calm, and confidence is invaluable- and a curse- duplicating exactly worked last season is a dicey proposition at best, and anyone who invests will tell you past results aren't a guarantee of future earnings.
History is relevant, but not supreme. The personnel may be largely similar, but context changes from season to season. What matters is how good this year's team is. Over the next week and through the end of February we're going to find out, thanks to the NBA's supercomputers.
One final note: Odom says he's pulling for the Saints this Sunday. I'll leave you to figure out why.