Even though the Lakers were only an hour away from taking off for Boston to play in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, there were hardly any signs of nervousness after practice despite the team’s youthful roster.
“We’re a pretty calm bunch,” said Kobe. “We don’t get too high, we don’t get too low. We don’t get rattled at all playing on the road.”
Lamar Odom–one of many Lakers playing in his first NBA Finals series–said that the drama of the NBA’s biggest stage likely won’t hit him until he actually steps foot on the Celtics’ court.
“Actually, I’m pretty relaxed,” said the forward. “I don’t want to get too pumped up. I want to kind of stay calm. It’ll be a little different when we hit the floor and get on that layup line. For me, it’ll be my first time in the Finals so I’ll be pretty pumped up. But, right now, we’re relaxed, just soaking it all.”
Even attempts by reporters to escalate the already high drama level heading into the series were shut down by Coach Jackson and Lakers players.
“I don’t know,” said Jackson when asked whether or not the Lakers are playing with a chip on their shoulders. “I think you have to have great respect for your opponent. You have to go in with a learner’s mind.”
Odom said that if the Lakers or Celtics are indeed playing with a little extra intensity, it’s only natural given the history of the two teams.
“I think we all do, both teams do,” said Lamar. “Both teams want to be proven champions and prove themselves and there’s only one way to do that–to win.”
Pau Gasol–similarly playing in his first Finals–said that the key for the Lakers is to establish their own game from the get-go.
“You go on the road and you’re focused and you play aggressive and don’t want and be passive on the road,” said the Spaniard. “You’ve got to be aggressive, set the tone, get the crowd of the game and just play through everything.”