Several memories will be shared, followed by plenty of bling and then, well, an NBA game.
The Lakers begin the season tonight against the Clippers, but not before they receive their championship rings from last season’s successful playoff run.
It will be loud at Staples Center, perhaps even emotional, and then the Lakers will have to play. “It’s always one of the toughest games that you’ll play because of the emotions,” Kobe Bryant said. “You’re in such a great space, feeling happy and content with what you’ve accomplished, and now you have to turn around and understand that this team is coming for your head.”
The Clippers haven’t done much headhunting lately. The Lakers have won eight consecutive games against their down-the-hall neighbors, blasting the Clippers by an average of 21.8 points.
Perhaps that’s why the Lakers’ goal, according to Lamar Odom, is to not just be the best team in Los Angeles.
“We’re not trying to be cocky,” Odom said. “But our goal is not to be better than one team. It ain’t just about being better than one team or competing against one team.
“Especially since I’ve won a championship, I have tunnel vision compared to all the other teams. I’ve got a good friend who plays for the Clippers. His name is Rasual Butler. I always wish him well. Blake Griffin reminds me of Larry Johnson. Baron Davis is a great player. It’s nothing against them.”
The Clippers know they’ve been struggling. Just the same, veteran Clippers center Chris Kaman was surprised when informed of the margin of victory the last two seasons.
“Against us?” he said. “Well, we were horrible last year and the year before.”
Lakers assistant coach Frank Hamblen, in charge of scouting the Clippers, has been impressed with the way Coach-General Manager Mike Dunleavy overhauled the Clippers’ roster, adding players such as Griffin, and acquiring Butler and Sebastian Telfair. “I’m really impressed with the depth of their team,” Hamblen said.
Hamblen noted that the players from both teams share a lot in common. Some of them have the same agent. Some grew up together. Some party together. Some of them are friends. Therefore, both teams want bragging rights.
“It’s for who owns the turf in L.A.,” Hamblen said.
Pau Gasol has been bothered by a strained right hamstring and is being called a game-time decision by the Lakers. “He’s much more optimistic than he was, say, Friday of last week,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said of Gasol, who did not speak to reporters Monday.
As for the ceremony, TNT plans to show pregame festivities in their entirety . . . as long as the first game of the network’s doubleheader cooperates. Boston plays Cleveland starting at 4:30 p.m. PDT, and the Lakers’ ring ceremony begins at 7:15, half an hour before they and the Clippers tip off. If Boston-Cleveland doesn’t end before the ceremony begins, the ceremony would air live on nba.com.
Regardless, the championship rings will be large. “I was amazed,” Jackson said.
Longtime Lakers consultant Tex Winter stopped by Monday’s practice six months after sustaining a stroke. He will attend tonight’s game. Winter, the architect of the modern-day triangle offense, seemed to be in good spirits as he talked to players.
Bryant called him “Master Yoda” and hugged him.
Meanwhile, another former member of the Lakers’ coaching staff, Kareem-Abdul Jabbar, observed a practice with the Memphis Grizzlies and could be offered a consulting job with the team. He is still under contract with the Lakers, but his role has been diminished since last season.
Karl in Cleveland
Former Lakers guard Coby Karl made the Cavaliers’ roster. Karl, 26, spent the 2007-08 season with the Lakers but was cut a few days before last season began. “I’m excited just because it gives me a second opportunity to prove myself,” Karl said.
Times staff writer Lisa Dillman contributed to this report.