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MARK HEISLER / ON THE NBA

Lakers' loony bin is now in full swing

As usual, there's nothing routine with the team on media day.

September 30, 2009|MARK HEISLER | ON THE NBA

Media day, a routine event elsewhere, went as usual in Lakerdom, where it's more like a tour of an asylum to see who's new and what the long-term residents are up to.

How many defending champions acquire Ron Artest in the off-season, and see him eclipsed by the first day he puts on a uniform by the wedding of the year?

Unfortunately, for those eager to hear about the Lamar Odom-Khloe Kardashian nuptials, they were off the record.

Kardashian's producers have embargoed all discussion of the wedding -- until the episode airs on her reality show . . . in three months. Apparently, they think they've got the biggest event in the can since Diana married the Prince of Wales. Aside from breaking new ground in 21st century narcissism (if your kids don't know what it means, have them look it up, because they'll need it), a celebrity wedding on the eve of camp is even new for the Lakers, who keep thinking they've seen it all.

Of course, they already had enough to do to defend the NBA title they had so much trouble winning, with low-maintenance Trevor Ariza instead of Artest, and no royal weddings.

As for the impact on Odom, let's just say it's a good thing the season is a month off.

Sitting down Tuesday with ESPN 710's John Ireland and Steve Mason, Odom started fumbling his way through the promos the players are asked to record.

"Long weekend?" Ireland asked him, another one Odom wasn't supposed to answer.

For those who had never heard of Odom before, he's not only a good player, but the sweetest tempered of the Lakers.

Then came stardom!

"This is what happens when people like you and you let them in," Odom said, explaining his new popularity. "You know, I can easily be defensive and not tell people about me and just be like a basketball player.

"[Laughing] It just so happens I'm good looking and I have a personality which I don't mind sharing. And along with success comes this other side. And I'm blessed, first of all to be with an organization like this, where you can show that other side, in a town like L.A., where people love personality.

"It's been a blessing and it's happened overnight and it's 100% all real. It's true. It's Lamar.

"[Getting married] so fast, there were a lot of family members that couldn't even agree, so I can imagine what it would look like to an outside person. . . .

"But I fell in love. And the reason I knew I was in love, I knew how I felt when I wasn't with that person, when she was no longer in my life. I've been in L.A. 10 years, never had a problem meeting women. . . .

"I finally met the one I knew if I lost her, I knew it would hurt the most."

Getting carried away in the fast lane? Him?

Of course, Odom has never let this many people in before the wedding he couldn't talk about, which obliged the press to find new ways of rephrasing the questions he declined to answer.

It took one minute for this to get old. Odom became more and more brusque, and a publicist dived into the media scrum around him to rescue him.

(Not that we were excited but I got into an argument with a TV sound man, who kept hissing I was bumping his cameraman, announced he would sue me -- then asked me for a business card to find out whom to sue. It's H-E-I-S-L-E-R.)

As for the impact on the rest of the team . . .

What impact?

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson is so serene, he didn't talk, having sat down with the local press corps last week.

Unlike other coaches, Jackson has no problem with controversy, inviting it at every turn by bringing in characters like Dennis Rodman in Chicago, and Artest, whom he wanted for years, here.

It's no accident Jackson's teams are zany, but they're no more fazed at what's going on than he is, which is not at all, one reason he's six for eight in title defenses.

"I think he has an uncanny way of staying at an even keel," said Derek Fisher, a veteran of four title runs and countless controversies.

"For those of us who have been around a long time, you're not that blown away by some of the weirdness and excitement that has come with [grinning] recent activities.

"I'm sure if you're outside the Lakers, it's like, 'Here it goes again.' I think that's the great part about being a Laker. You're not just playing basketball. You really are part of something much bigger. It's the fabric of this city, it's the heartbeat of this town."

The Lakers are back. The heartbeat of this town just doubled.

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mark.heisler@latimes.com

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