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Thursday, May 8, 2008
REPORTING FROM ... THE STAPLES CENTER


Vanessa, with the amount of dime your husband makes, are you really wearing a purple tutu?
There's a crisis in the Lakers locker room. "What have they done to the back of my shoes?" asks Sasha Vujacic examining a pair of black rubber sandals as he sits in front of his locker. He hesitates before smelling them. "Hey!" Vujacic says to a trainer. "These are messed up. Somebody did something."

"I sprayed some stuff on them," the trainer explains. "It's disinfectant. I do that every now and then."

Vujacic's phone starts to ring.

"Who's calling me?" he says smiling as he picks up his I-Phone. "Don't people know I have a game?"

There's just more than an hour until the Lakers take on the Utah Jazz in Game 2, but the Lakers don't seem a bit worried.

As Sasha figures out his shoe crisis, Lamar Odom munches on popcorn and pounds fists with reporters. The last few games he's caused attention in the locker room with his fashionable garments—brightly colored custom-made suits, including a bright yellow suit with purple trim. He's got about eight different ones, but today he opted for a classic suit. "I kept it cool, calm and collected for today," he explains. "Next time we're here I'll give you a funky suit," he promises.

The locker room before a Lakers game is pure comedy. It's this light-hearted attitude that is responsible for much of the Lakers success.

"There's a lot of talented teams in the NBA but when you gel like we do and you enjoy playing with each other, that's when you start winning," Luke Walton says. "That's what's going on with us right now."

THE JAZZ

The Utah Jazz locker room, on the other hand, is a bit more serious - and much quieter.

Game one is playing on a projector screen but Andrei Kirilenko is busy reading a book, while most of the other players listen to music.

The only guy trying to have a bit of fun is rookie Morris Almond.

"Doesn't he look like a monkey?" says Almond pointing at Jason Hart, who is sitting near Carlos Boozer with headphones on blasting music that can be heard across the room.

"Who's saying stuff?" Hart asks as he takes off his headphones. "The rookie or the vet? As long as it's not the rookie. The vet can talk but the rookie can't say a word."

It's a brief comedic moment in the locker room.

"Not really," says Almond when asked if the group hangs together. "Most of the guys on the team have a family and they're married. It's like a veteran-type team. There's only like four guys on the team that aren't married and don't have children."

THE VIBE AND VANESSA BRYANT

At 7:10pm Staples Center isn't even half full. "Traffic was awful tonight!" a couple fans sitting courtside complain. The Lakers players know better than to sit in L.A. traffic. Walton carpooled from to the game in teammate Jordan Farmar's car.

"We gotta save the environment!" Walton says. "We live right next to each other so we switch off." Seems the guys have learned the art of compromise on the court and in the carpool lane. "He plays the music way too loud when he drives," Walton says. "He listens to his music and when I drive I get to listen to my music."

Like...the Grateful Dead?

"Yup, all that good stuff."

Staples Center is playing quite the eclectic mix tonight as well. Ritchie Valens' "La Bamba", Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust", Bob Marley's "Stir it Up", and the Jackson 5's "Abc" are just a few songs that fans are dancing to. Oh, and tonight everyone gets a free yellow t-shirt that says 'Our team, Our time, Our MVP.'

Kobe's wife, Vanessa, has opted to make her own fashion statement. Vanessa, who is usually prim and proper in all black has decided to have fun tonight with her outfit. She's wearing a white tube dress, a purple tutu, black leggings, high heeled short boots and a rhinestone incrusted white leather jacket with the number 8 on the back, Kobe's old number. Bryant's daughters, Natalia and Gianna both have shirts that say "Got MVP?"

"When he changed his number I didn't have anything with a 24 on it so I had them make this dress," Vanessa says. "I don't know how to sew that well so I just told them what to do."

The girls, however, prefer their soccer uniform over ballerina tutus.

"I have stuff like this for them but they don't want to wear it," Vanessa says. "She's like, 'I don't want to wear it. It itches.'" Bryant's kids have recently started playing soccer in addition to gymnastics, ballet and hip-hop.

"I'm like a total soccer mom," Vanessa says.

ALMOST HALFWAY THERE

Just a couple hours later confetti shoots from the sealing promptly at the buzzard while Randy Newman's "I Love L.A." blasts through the speakers as the Lakers secure Game 2 of the series with a 120-110 win.

Whether it's the crowd, Kobe or the guys just having fun, the Lakers momentum doesn't seem to be stopping anytime soon.

"We all get along and we've got great chemistry and energy amongst each other and right now it's definitely paying off," Farmar says.

The players run down the tunnel high-fiving fans leaning over the balcony.

"Six down, ten to go!" says the announcer.