Well before the Lakers’ 2 1/2 hour practice ended, Kobe Bryant walked out of the team’s facility with a stoic expression and a somber voice. Bryant has recently felt pain far more serious than a bruised lower left leg that kept him out of Thursday’s practice. The Lakers’ star has weathered varying emotions surrounding former teammate Lamar Odom being hospitalized late Tuesday night in Las Vegas after losing consciousness at a Nevada brothel.
“He’s handling it. It’s hard on him,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said of Bryant, who did not speak with reporters. “He was very close to Lamar and loves him like a brother. It’s a rough time for Kobe dealing with that.”
Shortly after he completed a physically demanding practice, Lakers forward Metta World Peace struggled processing something that proved more draining. The former Ron Artest built a kinshp with Odom beyond once wearing the same purple and gold uniform.
“A lot of my friends grew up with him,” said World Peace, who lived near Odom in the New York City area. “We’re very concerned right now.”
Scott hardly has the same close relationship Bryant and World Peace share with Odom, who played for the Lakers from 2004 to 2011 and became a key reserve that secured NBA championships in 2009 and 2010. But Scott still views Odom with affection because of his Lakers’ ties. More importantly, Odom’s ongoing stay since Tuesday evening at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center in Las Vegas has left the organization worrying about things that do not involve a basketball.
“Everybody is thinking about Lamar,” Scott said. “One of the first thoughts I had on my mind this morning was if anybody heard any differently on what’s going on with it.”
Pessimism remains whether Odom can overcome his latest adversity with the same ease he once showed as a versatile forward and amiable teammate through a 14-year NBA career. Brothel workers from Love Ranch South in Crystal, Nev. reported in a 911 call released on Wednesday that Odom took cocaine and 10 doses of an herbal supplement believed to be a legal sexual stimulant from last Saturday to Tuesday before losing consciousness. The Los Angeles News Group has learned Odom showed small signs of progress Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning.
“It’s sad. But we ask everybody to pray for him and keep going,” Lakers forward Nick Young said. “Keep your head up and stay in good faith. We’re all praying for him.”
The Lakers’ family showed their support in other ways. Bryant and Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak visited Odom on Tuesday night shortly after the team’s exhibition game in Las Vegas. Bryant and Kupchak spent the night at the hospital before returning to Los Angeles on Wednesday morning. Houston forward and former Lakers teammate Trevor Ariza also spent time with Odom. World Peace’s brother, Daniel, visited Odom on Wednesday evening and Thursday morning.
— Daniel Artest (@DArtestFitness) October 15, 2015
World Peace said he “didn’t get a chance to visit Odom.” But he expressed gratitude for Bryant, Kupchak and Ariza for their visits. World Peace thanked Lakers trainer Gary Vitti for keeping the team updated about Odom’s health. And World Peace listed off various friends that grew up with Odom, including Atlanta Hawks forward Elton Brand.
“There’s nothing I can say that would make sense right now,” World Peace said. “It’s all about Lamar and his children. There’s a lot of support here at the Lakers organization, with Kobe Bryant doing a great job to see him and Mitch as well. I’m grateful for those two and everybody else who truly truly support Lamar.”
The Lakers’ unyielding support for Odom seems simple even if he was traded to Dallas in 2011 after he demanded one for being a piece in the Chris Paul deal that never happened.
“It’s that purple and gold,” Scott said. “Once you’ve worn it and done this organization proud, you’ll always be part of the family. Lamar is no different.”
But amid this backdrop reveals some possible concerns. The Lakers (1-4) already had other issues to worry about in exhibition play, ranging from health concerns, their defense, rotations and if they can rebound from last season’s worst record in franchise history. A steam of camera crews arrived to the Lakers’ facility on Thursday, including one for E! Entertainment Television.
Hence, Scott conceded Odom’s tenuous health and the subsequent concern and attention “has a potential to be” a distraction.
“We’re trying our best not to allow it to be,” Scott said. “We’re trying to do what we do best which is come out here and play basketball and think about that. This is still our safe haven.”
Perhaps easier said than done.
“It’s tough, especially being here with the Lakers and knowing how they shared moments with [Lamar] and have been through battles,” Lakers forward Nick Young. “It’s pretty down. You can see players push through it from the top to the bottom”
The Lakers practiced for nearly 2 1/2 hours in drills that included full-court scrimmaging and sprints. But Scott concluded his practice generally critiquing the hustle of various unnamed players.
“We still have a job to do. We have to come to work everyday as a basketball team,” Scott said. “But when you have that down time, if he pops into your head like I know he will and he does with me everyday, say a prayer for him.”
Vitti talked to the team before its exhibition against Sacramento on Tuesday. But Scott has resisted talking to his players about Odom’s tenuous health for reasons beyond wanting to maintain a business-like approach toward practices and games.
“Everybody has their own way of dealing with stress and sadness and things like this,” Scott said. “You have to leave guys alone and give them their space to deal with it.”
Still, the Lakers sounded somewhat reflective of Odom’s impact.
World Peace spoke about knowing Odom since he was 11 years old. Young called Odom “a good dude” and “down to earth” after staying in the same apartment complex in downtown Los Angeles during the 2013-14 NBA season. Scott sounded amused about how Odom often ate Skittles and other candies, while still remaining effective on the court.
“We love him,” Scott said of Odom. “We love him and wish him all the best and want him to come back to us.”