Reporting from Phoenix
A funny thing happened to the Lakers on the way to playing the Celtics. Lamar Odom forgot to finish what he started, requiring an extended stay in this round of the playoffs.
Love him, as Lakers' fans did after he contributed so much in two wins to start this series, or dismiss him after another disappearing act Sunday night, he's almost always frustrating because when the game begins, you never how you're going to feel about him when it's over.
Crazy, I know, the only consistency in his game the fact he's just the same after he plays great, just the same when he takes the night off.
"Are you bummed out?" I want to know after he finishes with as many rebounds as personal fouls in Game 3 loss to Phoenix.
"No," Odom says. "Life is good."
Like always, he was there in front of his locker, waiting patiently until the last reporter was done with him, the question, though, almost always the same: "Why do you have games like this?"
The carefree answer not gibing with all the time, energy and grit that goes into preparing for a playoff game that might lead to a shot at a championship.
"It's just a game,"' he says. "It's just like when you play great, you put those games behind you, and when you play bad, you put those behind you."
But why? Why the bad game?
"I don't know," says Phil Jackson, no different than anyone else when it comes to understanding Odom's game. "He had a game he doesn't want to remember. He wants to go home and forget about this one."
But not before he's asked again, and again — the quest for an answer certainly more relentless than the effort given here on the floor.
"The greatest players in the world sometimes play bad in any sport," Odom says. " Joe Montana had one before. Gretzky. It happens. I'm just Lamar."
When I ask him whether he understands what it's like for a fan to watch him play, never knowing what they might get, he says, "Yeah, a fan. But I'm the player. You should listen to the player.
"Listen to the guy who's been playing since he was 10 years old. Take his word for it. Everything will be fine. I promise you."
That sounds like a guarantee, as if anyone can guarantee what they're going to get from this guy.
I think I'd know if we were talking Montana or Gretzky.
UP ON the overhead scoreboard before the game, they flashed the words: "We've been here before,'' down 0-2.
Former Suns' coach Paul Westphal then appeared talking at a long ago news conference. "I know what the next question is going to be: 'Are you guys dead?' No, we're going to win the series,'' Westphal said.
And they did, so why didn't Alvin Gentry do the same?
"I don't have the [guts]," he said. "Besides, that was a five-game series they won."
JACKSON GOT hit with a technical, his first of the season, saying he was unhappy with a non-call — the Suns getting their share of free throws, while the Lakers were not. I wanted to know if he had used a bad word, maybe the same one used with me after a playoff loss in Houston last year.
"I don't know that word anymore," he said. "I forgot it.''
I TOLD Phil before the game, that when it came to returning to the Lakers next season, Jeanie had put in a good tweet for him.
"Who's that?" he said, and not a good sign when you have to remind someone of their girlfriend's name.
"Jeanie," I said.
"She should," he said, and I wonder how that would go over if they were married.
I told him she had sent out a tweet that read: "Phil made the best lasagna dinner. Hall of Fame Coach, good looking and he cooks. He's a keeper.''
Phil's response: "It's her dad I really have to please."
And I thought things changed only after you stopped dating.
I'LL REMEMBER Jose Lima as the "Miracle Man," winning 13 games for the Choking Dogs in '04 after spending the previous year with the Newark Bears.
He gave the Dodgers their first postseason win since 1988, good reason I thought a few years ago to build a statue at Dodger Stadium in his honor.
He liked that when we talked two years ago, Lima pitching for a team in Camden, N.J., and calling his playoff win the "best game I ever pitched."
I put $20 down on a Riversharks "It's Lima Time'' T-shirt, and a few days later wore it to the Dodgers' clubhouse. It went right over the head of the players.
They have no idea what they missed.
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