Lakers locked in for a three-peat bid
LOS ANGELES — Change is expected in the NBA. The day before the Los Angeles Lakers secured back-to-back NBA championships, forward Lamar Odom was asked about change.
After the Lakers won the title in 2009, Odom toyed with the idea of leaving LA. He talked with family, friends, and teammates about his options and eventually signed a contract extension last summer through 2013. In the last year, the Lakers also have locked up core players Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Ron Artest.
Odom said later he didn’t want to play anywhere else, but that decision is not always up to the player. This time of year, players know decisions can be made, with or without their input, for the sake of the team.
“It’s just part of the business of basketball,’’ Odom said. “That’s just the pressure we live by. You’re talking about a franchise where it’s tradition to win championships. That’s what they expect. This is the type of pressure we live for. [If you win, it’s great.] If you lose, maybe things will change. That’s just the way it is.’’
The biggest question facing the Lakers is the status of coach Phil Jackson, whose contract is up. Before the Lakers clinched the franchise’s 16th NBA title with an 83-79 win over the Celtics Thursday night in Game 7, Jackson said he hadn’t made a decision about his future.
“You know, I’ve resisted thinking about that and talking about it for the most part,’’ said Jackson before the game.
If Jackson returns, he would have a familiar group in place. Four of his five starters are under contract through at least 2013. Point guard Derek Fisher, however, is a free agent. He has won five championships with the Lakers and played 11 of his 14 seasons in Los Angeles. During the Finals, Bryant said Fisher is the one player who can put him in his place and that he is the emotional leader of the team. But the Lakers may be looking to go younger at that position.
The Lakers seem to like what they have. Gasol is a strong presence who has proven his value the last three seasons. Odom also has defensive strengths, and filled in for center Andrew Bynum when he has battled injuries.
The Lakers added Artest last summer, and he was a big factor in Game 7, providing defense and key baskets.
Jackson, who has guided the Lakers to the Finals each of the last three seasons, has been known to show his support for the players he wants to coach, and Odom said that makes an impact.
“When you look at a situation like that, you talk about him setting it up where if he does stay around, those are the guys he wants in his locker room,’’ Odom said. “Whether it be on the court, patrolling the other players, making sure the locker room is a safe and sound place. Phil has helped set that up for the next couple years. I just want him to be happy and at peace.’’
Monique Walker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.