Lakers' Odom still mourning sudden death of infant son

Updated: September 28, 2006, 9:03 PM ET
Associated Press

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Lamar Odom, carrying a bible and without his usual smile, spoke somberly Thursday regarding the sudden death of his 6½-month-old son three months ago, saying he needed to be strong for his other children.

"I feel a little lost at times. God is keeping me strong," Odom told reporters Thursday at the Los Angeles Lakers' training camp in his first public comments since Jayden Odom suffocated in his crib and died June 28.

Sometimes, I need to be by myself, whether it's a week or two weeks. My family has been understanding. There was a time when I thought basketball wasn't going to be able to heal the wound.
Lamar Odom

"Sometimes, I need to be by myself, whether it's a week or two weeks," he said. "My family has been understanding. There was a time when I thought basketball wasn't going to be able to heal the wound."

Odom and Liza Morales, his longtime companion, have an 8-year-old daughter, Destiny, and a 5-year-old son, L.J.

"She's in the third grade -- she reads on a fifth-grade level. She understands," Odom said of his daughter regarding Jayden's death. "[L.J.] understands, too. I don't think he gets it like his sister gets it."

Odom said his son was healthy at the time of his death, and autopsy reports weren't conclusive.

"I've experienced it before -- my mother, my grandmother," he said. "What keeps me strong is he died on the same day as my grandmother."

Odom was in New York for a funeral at the time of his son's death.

"It is a tough time for my family, of course," he said. "You can't take it back. Coming home [to the Los Angeles area], I feel a little better.

"It will take some time. I haven't had much time to mourn -- I've kept so busy. My family is back in New York, I have a lot of support there. I kind of needed it."

The 26-year-old Odom averaged 14.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists for the Lakers last season -- his second with the team. He played four seasons for the Los Angeles Clippers after they made him the fourth overall selection in the 1999 draft, and one with the Miami Heat.

After his son died, the versatile 6-foot-10 forward withdrew from the U.S. National Team that won a bronze medal in the world championship this summer. He also was a member of the U.S. Olympic team that won a bronze two years ago.

Odom said he kept busy this summer with "a lot of things."

"Most of them had nothing to do with basketball," he said. "At the time, basketball just wasn't enough. Of course, basketball is my No. 1 focus."

Odom said he signed a record deal and started a T-shirt line this summer.

"Those are two of the things that kept me going, kept me focused, kept me positive," he said.

When asked if the passage of time had had made things easier, Odom paused before shaking his head, his eyes reddening.

"I don't think nothing could prepare you," he said. "You just have to accept it -- it's God's work."

Odom brightened when asked about the support he's received.

"It's been amazing. The everyday person in the street has reached out and felt me a little bit," he said. "The Lakers, the organization, has been great, stood by me. They really understood how hard I was going to be hit like this.

"It's funny -- I think this is going to make me a better basketball player as far as my mental approach to the game. I look forward to being back out there with my teammates, get in shape so on the 31st [of October] I can give it all I've got."

Odom spoke for 10 minutes before doing a couple of one-on-one television interviews.

The Lakers open training camp Tuesday, and open the regular season Oct. 31 against Phoenix -- the team that eliminated them from the playoffs in the first round last spring.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press