Pregame with Lamar

Lamar Odom sat in front of his locker stall, speaking to a few reporters tonight while performing a ritual he has performed since he first entered the NBA as a 19-year-old in 1999. It’s been expanded over the years, but it’s essentially the same. First, he wrote the address of the house he grew up in Queens on his sneakers. Then he jotted down “Grandma” for the woman who raised him. He wrote down the name of his mother, Cathy, who died when he wasn’t yet a teenage basketball sensation. He also wrote down the name of his son, Jayden, who died in his crib in the summer of 2007.

“I try to keep them close to me,” he said. “Every game.”

“Tonight’s a big one,” he added. “I might sleep with my shoes on, my jersey on, my whole uniform, like I’m 12 years old again.”

Odom said the bus ride to Amway Arena was about the same as it was before the Lakers faced the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of last year’s Finals. The mood of the team was intense, with little chatter among the players. He said he hoped the ride out of the arena would be radically different. After all, a group of Celtics fans tried to tip over the Lakers’ bus after Game 6. “They love their Celtics,” Odom said, without a trace of humor.

“At that point, I don’t think upset is the right word,” he said of the team’s reaction as fans rocked the bus. “We were down, in our own zone, some of us. Some of our family members had it pretty rough during that game. The fans here (in Orlando), they love their team, of course, but they have been respectful.”

Asked about the possibility of playing his final game with the Lakers tonight, Odom gave a quick answer about his impending free agency, saying, “Hopefully, we can keep the team together. The business of basketball usually takes place after the season is over, and I want to keep my focus on the game tonight.”

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