Lakers now as 'Hollywood' as the courtside celebrities at Staples
Media day on Tuesday for defending champion Lakers became a circus
Hot topic was recent marriage of forward Lamar Odom and Khloe Kardashian
Amazingly, team stars Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol were mostly unbothered
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Phil Jackson looked at the scene and simply shook his head. Leaning on a chair a few feet behind Lamar Odom and a throng of media attempting to ask about anything but basketball, Jackson laughed momentarily before finally stepping in and saying, "C'mon, Lamar let's go."
Tuesday may have been Lakers media day (the defending champions open training camp Wednesday), but at times it felt more like a movie premiere had broken out inside the team's practice facility, with entertainment reporters asking Odom about his wedding to Khloe Kardashian, Ron Artest about his rap career and Kobe Bryant about his wife possibly getting into the fashion industry. The only thing missing was Entertainment Tonight's Kevin Frazier asking Jackson who he was wearing.
The Lakers have always been Hollywood's team, but now they are as Hollywood as the actors sitting courtside at Staples Center. Half of the team's 12-man roster has publicists, including 12th man DJ Mbenga. That's right, if you want to set up a lunch with Mbenga, you better have your people call his people.
But no one on the team has gone as Hollywood as fast as Odom, who has been a fixture on celebrity sites such as TMZ since meeting Kardashian last month at a party hosted by Kardashian and Artest. His highly publicized Beverly Hills wedding to Kardashian last week was attended by most of his teammates and coaches, including Bryant and Artest, although others such as Derek Fisher couldn't attend it on such short notice.
"Lamar acted so fast I wasn't able to make it," Fisher said. "I'm happy for him and Khloe and I'm looking forward to seeing her at all the games."
No doubt the Kardashians will be a fixture at Lakers games this season along with the camera crew that shadowed them during Sunday's wedding to film scenes for their reality show. In fact, Kardashian's deal with the E! network for her reality show and other celebrity outlets not only restricts her from talking about the wedding but Odom as well. Whenever Odom was asked about getting married, his publicist waved them off before pulling him away.
"My other half has her business interests that I have to respect," Odom said.
That being said, Odom did shed some light on why he married Kardashian less than a month after meeting the reality television star, a decision that not only shocked the media and his teammates but also his family.
"I fell in love, and the reason I knew that I was in love was how I felt when I wasn't with her or [the thought that] she was no longer in my life," Odom said. "I've never had a problem meeting women but I finally met the one that I knew if I had lost her, it would hurt the most."
As Odom and Artest dealt with the media crush, Bryant and Pau Gasol -- the one-two punch that will ultimately determine how far the Lakers go this season -- were left to wander the practice court relatively unbothered.
"It's great," said a smiling Gasol, standing by himself off the court as the madness of media day went on around him. "It's fine with me. Leave me out of it."
Although Odom said he didn't need or want the extra publicity he got from marrying Kardashian, and that it's a "100 percent real and true" relationship, he did perk up at the sight of being the focal point of the team's media day after a summer-long negotiation that almost saw him leave the Lakers and the Hollywood lifestyle he's become accustomed to.
"That's what happens when people like you and you let them in," Odom said. "I could easily be defensive and not tell people about me and just be a basketball player, but it just so happens that I'm good-looking and I have a personality that I don't mind sharing."
While many of the Lakers soaked up the attention, walking from one photo shoot to the next with their publicists as if they were moving down a red carpet, it seems the key to the Lakers having another Hollywood ending this season has just as much to do with what they don't do off the court as it does with what they do on it.
"I just hope this isn't a distraction to our team," Gasol said. "The last six teams that have won a championship haven't been able to repeat, and we want to change that. We're used to distractions, but once we step on the court, everything that could be a distraction has to be left off the court and I think it will be."
That may be easier said that done if the Kardashians are sitting courtside this season.
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