As one would imagine, it was a happy afternoon for Lamar Odom, the guest of honor at a news conference officially naming him Sixth Man of the Year. Teammates in attendance included Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Pau Gasol, Luke Walton, Shannon Brown, Derrick Caracter and Trey Johnson, all of whom looked exceptionally thrilled for a teammate described by Mitch Kupchak as the Lakers' most popular.
After getting a little teary mentioning loved ones no longer here to see him in the spotlight, Odom talked about the irony of being singled out for individual achievement after a career of deferring and never worrying about stats.
"At the end of the day, my game will never change, but there was a point in my career where people were ready to call me an underachiever," Odom said. "So I think winning an award like this is kind of right at those people.
"But there's still some goals I'd like to set. I would love to play in the All-Star game. I feel like I can keep getting better and better, and I guess the better I get, the more I can help this team continue to win."
More from Odom, who expressed pride in being a Laker and gratitude toward coach Phil Jackson for selling him on this role in 2009. He also acknowledged the fans' part in succeeding as a super-sub.
At the practice before LO's presser, much of the talk naturally revolved around his impending honor. Jackson is not huge on individual awards but was nonetheless happy to see Odom recognized for his season. Besides, he's a much bigger fan of Lamar's trophy than his reality show. Not that PJ has even seen "Khloe and Lamar," but today's reality TV culture is something the Zen Master simply can't wrap his head around.
"It's a different world. The interesting thing that sociologists have talked about is that kids would rather be famous than wealthy or have important jobs. They'd rather be famous, even though we know that it's what, five minutes of fame and that's it? Everybody's got their moment. Every dog has it's day. At this level of our society, it's really turned into that. ... It's a real interesting phenomenon."
Bad news for those hoping Jackson's life after coaching will include the new show, "Jeanie and Phil."
Bryant, a vocal proponent of Odom's all season, described the award as "much deserved." Out of pure curiosity, I asked if he could ever picture himself in that kind of role later in his career. There was a scoff of disbelief at the question, followed by a flat "no."
Well, I thought it was an interesting question. Apparently, that makes one of us.
Kobe also talked about his expectations for Pau Gasol heading into Game 2. His postgame comments on Sunday emphasized in no uncertain terms the need for the power forward to step it up. In El Segundo, it was again depicted as mandatory. But in both cases, Kobe maintained confidence in Pau's ability to come through.
"He'll play better. All he needs to do is just play like Pau," Bryant said. "He didn't play like Pau in Game 1. All he needs to do is just play like himself."
Given how Gasol admitted Sunday a lack of early touches prompted his lack of energy and aggressiveness, I asked if he was more unhappy about not playing well or allowing himself to get taken mentally out of the game.
"A little more of (that latter). When you over-think stuff out there, you get yourself caught in a bad position," Gasol said. "You find yourself being not as active as you should. That becomes a problem sometimes, so you just gotta go. It might work out differently than you expected it to work out, but you just gotta go and go hard. Make yourself available and productive.
"I do it, I think, well sometimes, but the last game wasn't one of them."
Fisher talked about the honesty between Bryant and Gasol, and the rest of the team in general. Fisher says he appreciates the open lines of communication and being part of a team everybody demands more from one other.