The Arizona Republic
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LOS ANGELES - Amar'e Stoudemire rarely cracks open the door to his psyche.
It is a defense mechanism borne out of a difficult childhood. It was obvious Tuesday, however, the Los Angeles Lakers
got to him.
"I'm not giving him no hype," Stoudemire said Tuesday about Lamar Odom's 19 points and 19 rebounds in Game 1. "He had a lucky game."
Dismissing the competition is never a good thing. Nor is revealing too much in this Internet-driven age.
Just ask Darnell Dockett.
Odom wouldn't bite. He deflected the question several times before he said, "Hopefully, I'll have another one."
The most-interesting subplot of Game 2 at Staples Center will be how these two athletes respond to a not-so-sleepy off-day of news.
The old Stoudemire used to be prone to the occasional bout of bravado, but he has been much more careful of late, remaining upbeat during difficult contract questions and taking on more of a leadership role with the team. Sometimes the past has a way of creeping back in, however, and one can't help but wonder if Stoudemire is distracted by his mother's arrest Saturday for driving without a breath alcohol ignition-interlock device.
Stoudemire came to the scene, according to the police report, but was sent away by an officer when she started yelling his name.
I'll give him a mulligan on this one.
For what it's worth, he often is at his best when he is ticked off. His production took a leap of improvement after coach Alvin Gentry benched him in the fourth quarter against Dallas in late January.
Odom's teammates didn't take the bait, either, although they made their points.
Point guard Derek Fisher spoke of a recent interview he saw featuring Mick Jagger, who explained the Rolling Stones' long-term success.
"He talked about talent, working hard, blah blah blah, but he said there is some luck involved in being good," Fisher said. "When you're great for a long time, you have to be lucky some times."
Lakers coach Phil Jackson was more philosophical: "You make your own luck."
Jackson also knows he has to temper his praise for Odom.
Odom had a terrific game against the Suns, but he hasn't always been there this postseason. During the Lakers' first-round series against Oklahoma City, Jackson referred to Odom as "MIA."
The player agreed, saying he's "played poorly" in the postseason.
It's mystifying because of how dominant he can be, as he was Monday.
After his struggles against Oklahoma City, he seemed to turn it around against Utah, helping secure the Lakers' victory in Game 1 by following two Kobe Bryant misses with baskets in the final five minutes.
But even his improved play hasn't quelled questions about his struggles in the spring.
Some have speculated his sore shoulder is more injured than he cares to disclose.
Others suspect his high-profile marriage to Khloe Kardashian has disrupted his focus. He often hears shouts of "Mr. Kardashian" during games.
He insists neither is a big-enough distraction.
Whatever it is, the Lakers hope to see the player who recorded seven double-doubles in last year's postseason.
And wonder how he'll respond to the expectations of a performance like Game 1's.
"I'm just going to try and keep doing what I'm doing," he said Tuesday.
Jackson said Odom thrived Monday because, "He was just aggressive when he came in and tried to feel out where we needed him in the game. A lot of times that's just the way basketball is.
"We hope it continues."
And how about Stoudemire? Is he mad enough to raise his game to new level against the Lakers? The Suns hope so.
It could be the deal-breaker in this series. A series that will be defined by skill.