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Odom's walk on the wild side gives fans a special glimpse

May 07, 2009|T.J. SIMERS

We'll get back to NBA Raw, flying elbows and who knows -- maybe chairs Friday night in Houston, but we begin with Wednesday's night's walk in the park.

If you've been to a Lakers game and you have watched Lamar Odom, you already know he knows you were there.

He doesn't miss a thing, his eyes darting everywhere in search for old as well as new friends, so no surprise to see him walking down Figueroa on Wednesday night with a crowd a little more than an hour before Game 2 of the playoffs.

He just wanted to be with the people, he said, his bald head covered in sweat, his white shirt drenched as Odom walked among business folks, tourists and the homeless from an apartment just off Hope -- and how fitting is that -- to Staples Center.

Two more games in Houston, back here on Tuesday, and the way the Lakers played Game 2, the line has to form behind Moses just off Hope once again, doesn't it, if only for superstitious reasons?

"People don't get to see us a lot because we're treated like celebrities and stars," he said, shouts of encouragement coming at him from car after car. "So you change that by letting them see you and maybe touch you."

He tried it once before, Easter Sunday, but security had to be called to keep the mob from swallowing him. The Lakers told him never again, but he was going to start this game, people energize him and when he chooses, he's unstoppable.

And so he walked, at one point joined by TNT's Craig Sager and Sager's lilac shoes -- and try walking a mile in downtown L.A. in those things.

Jim Hill and his camera crew also tagged along, a car stopping and a motorist yelling, "Jim, Jim."

Lamar who?

Crossing the street just beyond the Pantry, Odom & Co. were caught in the middle of Olympic, the light already turned green, but none of the cars offering an objection. A word of caution, don't try this if wearing a Rockets jersey.

"We work out all the time so walking a few blocks is no big deal," Odom said, cutting through L.A. Live, the folks at the outside tables getting an unexpected appetizer.

There were security guards doing their best to keep Odom walking without interruption, but a woman who knew it was a Lakers player but nothing more, marched her children for two blocks so they could see the back of a famous person.

"No mercy," shouted someone from a car, and the way the Rockets came roaring back in the first half, maybe it was more an omen than encouragement.

Odom just kept on walking, sweating and smiling. "I know I'm a basketball player and I'm supposed to drive a fancy car and have an entourage, but I'm a New Yorker," he said, "and I just like to walk, and it was a nice day for a walk.

"People love the Lakers so I don't have to get them excited by something like this."

Stopped at one point and reminded his shoe lace was untied, and tripping now would put Andrew Bynum back in the starting lineup, he immediately went to a knee.

That made him no different than most Lakers fans these days, only he tied the shoe rather than pray for Bynum's immediate development. Then it was fight on in Staples, Odom making eye contact with everyone in attendance, including the Rockets, who finally blinked.

BEFORE THE game, though, it was looking bleak, Steve Mason, host of the new "Loose Cannons" show on 710, saying of the Lakers, "They lose tonight and I think they lose the series."

Keep in mind the Lakers are moving on the radio from 570 and Vic the Brick to 710 and Mason next season, the Lakers' players losing their No. 1 cheerleader -- replaced by a guy ready to give up on them two games into a series.

We also caught a glimpse of just how dejected Phil Jackson was the other night after a Game 1 defeat courtesy of Jeanie's Journal on the Lakers' website.

Jeanie Buss, who seems to have some kind of in with Jackson, now videotapes him as he drives to Staples for each playoff game. "So what do you think?" Jeanie wanted to know before Game 1?

"Oh man," replied Phil, making him the only one I know who would ever mistake Jeanie for a man, the stress of the playoffs beginning to show.

"A lot of times a team will come in a little bit lackadaisical maybe, and we've had a week off and maybe [the team is] not as sharp as you want them to be," he said somewhat prophetically.

As an aside, he also praised the play of Kobe Bryant, "maybe as good as a player as he's ever been," in discussing the MVP award that went to LeBron James -- Jeanie getting a lot more out of him than Page 2.

Jeanie wrapped up the chat with a "good luck tonight," Phil removed his glasses, turned and tossed a smile to Jeanie.

"Looking good," Jeanie said, and it wasn't clear if she was talking about the Lakers' chances of winning or Phil?

If it gets a smile out of Phil, maybe I'll start telling him the same thing.

JEANIE'S JOURNAL made an immediate switch to the losing coach after Game 1. "It was a tough one tonight," said Jeanie in trying to solicit an inside glimpse at Jackson. "Are you OK?"

"I don't know," Jackson said. "Who knows the answer to that question?"

Call the psychology police, please, because if the best coach in the NBA doesn't know if he's OK one loss into a playoff series and doesn't know who might answer that question, yikes. "Come on," Jeanie urged him, and she'd make a fine reporter.

"I don't think we can play any worse," Jackson said, the rest of his answers becoming very, very short, almost as if he were talking to his wife.

"Stay positive," Jeanie said, and maybe she ought to be talking to Mason.

Now it's on to Houston, and if Jeanie doesn't come along, I'll do what I can to take her place.

--

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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