Lamar Odom hadjust botched his assignment on the final play of a tough loss in Washington,and Kobe Bryant was letting him and everyone within earshot know it. Bryantyelled at Odom on the court, off the court, in the hallway and in the lockerroom.
But rather thantorpedo their relationship, Bryant's blowup on the day after Christmas actuallymade it stronger. "He was right," says the reserved Odom, who was theonly player in the league to average at least 14 points, nine rebounds and fiveassists. "We just have different ways of going about it. Kobe's veryintense, and sometimes he can't understand how somebody can drop the ball andmiss a layup. He's going to ride you. We definitely complement each other asfar as how we deal with our teammates, and for that we're the perfectmatch." Against all odds, the two combined to lead the Lakers into theplayoffs and within a game of a first-round upset of the Suns.
Their partnershipalmost ended in June. While Odom was in New York City for an aunt's funeral,his six-month-old son, Jayden, died in his crib. "To this day it seemssurreal that I was holding my son in a room for two, three hours with him beinglifeless," Odom says. "I told some of my friends that I could call it acareer at 26." Instead, the game has provided solace. "It's funny,because I think it's going to make me a better basketball player," he says."I take my time right now more than ever in everything I do. I'm justlooking forward to getting out there and being amongst my teammates everyday."
ProjectedStarting Lineup with 2005--06 statistics
Record: 45--37(7th in West)
Points scored:99.4 (7th in NBA)
Points allowed:96.9 (15th)
(second seasonwith the Lakers)
JORDAN FARMAR (R)*
(R) ROOKIE (COLLEGE STATISTICS)
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Lakers
He's a greattalent, but in terms of making his team better, I'd rank Kobe Bryant in thebottom half of the top 10. When he strikes a happy medium between himself andhis teammates, he's phenomenal. But it was clear that he didn't know how tocreate that balance in Game 7 against Phoenix, when he was accused of not doingenough.... Vladimir Radmanovic is a really good player and an intriguingshooter to put alongside Bryant. If you close out on him, he can take it hardto the hoop and finish.... I just don't see much of a future for Kwame Brownthere. He makes poor decisions, his hands are bad, and as long as you put adefender around him, he has trouble getting the ball to the rim because helacks touch and skill. It killed him being the No. 1 pick, because he'llprobably be a backup and needs to accept his limitations and earn minutes withhis effort.... Inconsistency is a problem for Luke Walton, though the trianglesuits his game very well. He's a great passer who can help you for 25 minutes,but if he's playing more than that you'll notice diminishing returns.
When the Lakersfell to the Suns in the first round after going up three games to one, itmarked the first time in 45 playoff series that a Phil Jackson--coached teamhad lost after taking a lead.