Friday, March 13, 2009

Odom learns his lession from straying onto court

HOUSTON -- Lamar Odom understands the rule. That doesn't mean he likes it.

Suspended for following his basic instincts, the emotional Lakers forward sat out a critical game Wednesday night at Western Conference rival Houston. Odom came off the bench Monday at Portland when tempers began to flare following a harrowing fall by Blazers rookie Rudy Fernandez.


Odom jumped to his feet and took a couple steps toward the melee when he saw teammate Trevor Ariza in the middle of a 2-on-1 confrontation. Odom just couldn't help himself.

"It is what it is. Can't take anything back," Odom said. "I probably would do the same thing over again if I saw one of my teammates struggling, put under pressure by two guys from the other team."

The Blazers' Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge traded words with Ariza in front of the Lakers' bench. Odom was just a few feet away and, as many NBA players before him, couldn't fight the impulse to stray onto the court.

"When you don't have bad intent, it's tough," he said. "If you can maybe stop someone from getting hit or stop someone from hitting someone, I guess you still get suspended.

"You would think there would be come common sense-type thing when [league office personnel] watch the tape, but it's up to them. They make the rules. Just got to abide by them."

NBA executive vice president Stu Jackson announced the one-game suspension Tuesday. Odom said he wasn't contacted by the league office or the Lakers, but instead learned of the punishment on TV.

He figured it was coming.

"Rules are rules. That's it," he said. "Nothing you can do about it. It's too bad. I just took a step over to break up the fight."

Besides his teammates and coaches, Odom found a sympathizer in Houston. The Rockets' enforcer, Ron Artest, knows a thing or two about on-court altercations.

"I think you do the right thing by showing concern," Artest said. "I don't think he should have been suspended."

Artest has forfeited enough game checks over the years to be an expert on the subject. Still, Artest added that Odom was just trying to be a good teammate.

"Anybody would be concerned if they saw any type of commotion happening," Artest said. "Your natural reaction would be to show a little bit of concern on what's happening, no matter what it is in your life."

The Lakers won 102-96 without Odom, who returns to the lineup tonight at San Antonio. Should another incident arise that tests his gut reaction, Odom promises to show restraint.

"Next time," he said, "I'll know to be a good boy."

Sundown in Phoenix

The odds of RuPaul filling in for Amar'e Stoudemire at power forward are probably better than the Suns' odds of making the playoffs. Phoenix essentially blew its shot at a fifth straight postseason after dropping a must-win Tuesday at home against Dallas, 122-117.

"We played well and fought well, but we let it slip away," Shaquille O'Neal said. "We have 18 games left, so our playoffs actually started [Tuesday night]. We've got to pick it up as a team and see what happens."

From coach Alvin Gentry down, the Suns are saying all the right things and trying to remain optimistic. The reality is that this group may be making its last stand in Phoenix. Shaq, Stoudemire and maybe even Steve Nash could all be part of an offseason exodus as the Suns try to invent themselves again.

It doesn't make much sense to keep an aging team together that's already missed the playoffs. Until then, the Suns won't go down without a fight.

"We are still going to keep our heads up," Gentry said. "We are going to play hard and not going to give up."

Spurs' Welcome Wagon

Add welcoming committee chairmen to Tim Duncan's long list of duties. Drew Gooden doesn't have to worry about "fitting in" with the Spurs because of the guy he'll be backing up.

"It's very easy for people to fit in and that's because of Timmy," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "Every championship team, Timmy has a different group and he's the one who creates the atmosphere where everybody doesn't feel judged, they have an opportunity show what they can do and to blend into the group.

"It's a very easy group to join into because of the personalities of the players."

Gooden hasn't yet played with the Spurs despite signing a week ago. He could make his debut Saturday at Houston.

What They're Saying

"It was not a bad shooting night. However I played is the way I want to be judged. I will take the good with the bad."
-- Rockets forward Ron Artest after going 4 of 16 from the floor, including missing all eight of his 3-pointers, in Wednesday's loss to the Lakers

"Shaq's great. He's great. I'm certainly not going to say anything publicly about him negative at all. I love that guy. He's tremendous."
-- Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle on Shaquille O'Neal, who's had several verbal spats (Stan Van Gundy, Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard) in the last couple of weeks

"You can't fast-forward it. You go through it until you go through it, and this is part of what we're going through right now."
-- Blazers coach Nate McMillan on the experience his young team is getting in being in a playoff race

Behind the Numbers

31 -- Second-half points by Kobe Bryant at Houston on Wednesday, the highest-scoring half by an opponent of the Rockets this season

9 -- Road losing streak to West teams snapped Tuesday by Dallas at Phoenix.

5 -- Losing streak by Phoenix, its longest since January 2005.

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