O.C. Register: he party ended with Kobe Bryant jumping up from behind Lamar Odom and stealing the statistic-padding rebound, then stealthily dribbling away. Odom stood there, clearly amused once he figured it out, and just looked at Bryant before eventually throwing a sweatband at Bryant in mock dismay.
For his part, Bryant stole a look over his left shoulder at Odom, Bryant revealing one of the team’s biggest grins of a smile-filled night.
The Lakers stormed the Minnesota Timberwolves, 107-93, on Friday night at Staples Center in Odom’s first game back from shoulder surgery. Odom had 18 points and 10 rebounds, but the debut was marked even more by Odom’s joie de vivre than his impressive production.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson spoke afterward about Odom being able to “change the chemistry and the balance of the team out there.” For a group that has had to grapple with oppressive Bryant trade speculation, there was an air of buoyancy from all of Odom’s on-court smiles and heightened team chemistry from so many pretty passes being thrown. The Lakers had assists on 23 of their first 27 baskets and a 14-point third-quarter lead from that teamwork.
“Looking forward to the next one,” Odom said.
The Lakers went 2-15 in 2004-05 without Odom after he tore the labrum in his left shoulder the first time, then 0-5 last season after he tore it again. This time, they managed a 2-2 record without him — but they were a different, almost blissful group with him. They played with a passion for passing that has rarely surrounded Bryant, even in the Lakers’ championship years.
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