I went to media day today expecting the circus to be in town, with TMZ trucks and paparazzi hiding in the bushes outside of the Lakers training facility in El Segundo. While there were a few, shall we say, non-traditional media outlets asking some of the guys what kind of food was served at Lamar’s wedding, it was a mostly calm day. Calm by Lakers standards that is.

Two years ago, there was real drama as everyone waited to see if Kobe Bryant –who had blown a gasket over the summer –would actually show up to training camp.

Last season, there was all the talk about avenging the loss to the Celtics.

You know, real basketball issues. Now that the Lakers won the title, and things on the court are pretty well set, there really wasn’t much angst in the room.

I was joking with Luke Walton about it, who is always a good guy to joke with about stuff like that, and he was like, “I mean, I can start something if you want. Who do you want me to call out? Josh Powell. Man, I can’t stand Josh. He’s so selfish. I hate Josh. Is that good?

“Nah, but seriously, this is what makes our team so fun. We all get along, we have a great time and we’re looking forward to do it again.”

But Luke, what about all of us scribes bored with the Laker love-fest?

“We’ll figure something out,” he joked. “We’ll talk about it in the locker room and figure something real good out. By the end of training camp, we’ll have something good for you guys.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Kobe Bryant named Player of the Decade

With 55 percent of the vote, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant edged out San Antonio’s Tim Duncan in an informal Sporting News poll.

Of course that could have a lot to do with Bryant’s recent success, the popularity of the team he plays for, etc., but it’s still a nice honor.

The article, written by the excellent Sean Deveney, has a really interesting quote from Shaquille O’Neal on Bryant.

“The thing about Kobe is that, over the course of my career, I have never played with anyone who was as fierce as he is,” O’Neal said. “By fierce I mean just having that extra killer instinct that you know when the game is on the line he is not going to shy away from the big shot, he is not going to make excuses. If we would go into the fourth quarter, playoffs or just some game in the season and we were within a little bit of the other team, Kobe was not going to shy away from the challenge of getting the win. He was going to take the shots.”

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Ariza’s new digs

Really good story out of Houston this morning from my colleague Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

Jon catches up with former Laker Trevor Ariza and gets some interesting perspective on the how and why behind Ariza’s rocky free-agent negotiations.

Ariza admitted to being “hurt” by the Lakers initial stance with him — saying they’d match any offers at the midlevel exception, but would not offer more than that — but now seems to feel that moving to Houston will be a great opportunity for him to develop as a player.

“”Every player wants to grow. Every player has goals,” Ariza told the Chronicle. “Every player wants to be the best player he can be. In L.A., they have so many great, great players. Kobe is the best player in the NBA, arguably ever. Pau Gasol. Lamar Odom. Andrew Bynum is coming into his own.

“I think I would have been stuck into one role there. Here, everybody said, ‘We want you to work on your game. You have to do more. We believe you have the skill and the talent to do it. Come do it.'”

As for his contract negotiations with the Lakers, Ariza said, “I’m not a greedy person by any means. Fair is fair. I helped your team win. I’m not asking for the bank. I’m not asking for the house and the farm. I need something fair. At first, I felt hurt. It’s my home. I was a little upset. But you get over it. I have great memories there. I had my first real opportunity to play there, won a championship. It was a great experience. … But you know, things happen.”

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

RonRon on Lamar: “Lamar is marrying Khloe. Congratulations. I love him. I’ll be at the wedding. I can’t wait.”

Just checked in with the excellent Mark Ziegler of the San Diego Union Tribune, who was in attendance yesterday when Ron Artest made a rather splashy appearance in front of the 619 media to promote the Lakers exhibition game down south.

As you can tell from the hilarious stories that came out of the press conference Artest had quite a lot to say.

But I’d heard from someone else who was there that Artest also had a lot to say about Lamar Odom’s pending nuptials to Khloe Kardashian —which I wrote a column about today — but that the comments somehow didn’t get picked up by too many people.

I called Mark to check about it and he graciously filled me in. Anyway, here you go, from Ron’s mouth, through Mark’s tape recorder, to your computer screens:

ARTEST: “It’s great to be a Laker and reunite with Lamar Odom. I’ve known Lamar Odom since I was 8 or 9 years old. We played against each other from ages 8 or 9 up until ages 11 or 12, then played with each other from ages 11 or 12 all the way up to age 17. We’re both from Queens. His birthday is on the 7th of November and mine is on the 13th — same age. To reunite is great.

“Lamar is marrying Khloe. Congratulations. I love him. I’ll be at the wedding. I can’t wait.

“I needed him there. I felt really confident in my game, and then we’ve got Kobe. That makes you feel even more confident. Over the last couple years, I’ve been the main guy on my teams. I feel I can win. When you put Kobe in that situation on your team, you know you can win. But if Lamar’s not there, you’ve got to find a way to win. With Lamar coming back, it just boosts that confidence even more.

“With Lamar there, it gives us a better chance, especially with Rasheed Wallace over there at Boston. Rasheed is going to extend the defense, and Lamar is 6-11 and can go out there and play a little defense, and he’s a great rebounder and a great slasher.

“I tried to do all I could to get him to come back to L.A. But the main thing is, I wanted him to be happy, just being his friend. If he would not have come back to LA, you know, I would have been disappointed but I would support him. I’m more than happy to have him playing on this team.”

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Report: Odom and Kardashian to Marry

OK, I find this to be very hard to believe, and the first calls I’ve made on this are coming back with scoffs and “I don’t know anything about this” reactions, but I felt like I should put it out there since it’s coming from a source that is above tabloid status…

According to E! Online, Lakers forward Lamar Odom and his girlfriend Khloe Kardashian are planning to get married.

Yikes, that was fast.

Here’s some of the article:

A source close to the couple tells E! that Odom, a forward for the L.A. Lakers, and Khlo recently have been “talking about rings.”

Members of the Kardashian family are neither confirming nor denying the wedding plans or a date. A rep for both stars have declined to comment.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Who’s got game?

Registration is closed, but tickets are free for the Lakers 3-on-3 tournament this weekend at LA Live.

Roughly 500 teams will be competing for over $100,000 in prizes and from what I hear some of these players are pretty good.

Everything starts Friday afternoon. Lots of celebs scheduled to attend and games going on all over the place.

For more info, visit www.lakers3on3.com

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Exit interview: Kurt Rambis

I guess that’s the best way to describe the conference call Kurt Rambis did this afternoon, after he was formally introduced as the new head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Naturally, quite a few of the questions focused on whether Rambis was passing up a chance to be Phil Jackson’s in-house successor by leaving now. Personally, I think Rambis will be a better candidate after he has some head coaching experience. So I think this is a good move for him overall.

But here’s what he had to say for himself:

“There was a possibility. I saw myself as a viable candidate, above many, and equal to most. But this was a timing thing to me,” Rambis said. “There were no guarantees. They made me no promises. Phil is a competitor, he loves coaching and that team right now is built to win for a long time. I envision him being there for a long time. This was here right now. This was the right team at the right time, the right possibilities.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Bryant extension next?

Now that Odom has been re-signed, Kupchak said he and his staff will now “turn to the future, beyond this season.”

He wouldn’t specify whether that meant he’d open talks with Kobe Bryant’s agent Rob Pelinka on a contract extension, but all indications are that discussions about that very issue will begin immediately.

Earlier this summer, Bryant said he was content to let the organization take care of unrestricted free agents Trevor Ariza, Shannon Brown and Odom before beginning extension talks with him.

“Mitch has a lot on his plate,” Bryant said during an interview in early July. “I’d rather him take care of those pieces first. But he’ll get around to me.”

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

How close was Lamar Odom to being an ex-Laker?

A lot closer than previously realized.

What seemed on paper like a predictable, if not protracted resolution to the negotiations between the Lakers and power forward Lamar Odom was actually a surprise ending.

Odom officially signed a new four-year contract worth between $32-33 million on Friday afternoon in front of the television cameras and reporters assembled for a press conference at the team’s practice facility.

But for the second half of the 31 days it took to come to that agreement, Friday’s outcome was very much in doubt. Much more in doubt than previously realized.

When negotiations between the two sides broke down two weeks ago, Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss was so frustrated, many people in the organization doubted talks would restart.

Odom said that he had to personally lobby Buss to revisit contract talks and worried, for the first time, that he might not return to the Lakers.

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak described the tense two-week period after the Lakers withdrew their offers to Odom as, “at its best case, a time out.

“We had an offer on the table and we took it off,” Kupchak said. “Sometimes you revisit those things, and sometimes you don’t. Early on there was not an indication that we would revisit it.”

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email