EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) -The Los Angeles Lakers planned a players-only gathering Friday night to have dinner and watch Game 6 of the Houston-Utah first-round playoff series.
They had more than a passing interest, since the Jazz or Rockets will be their opponent in the second round. But they figured to have a good time no matter who won.
``We let loose, relax, enjoy each other's company,'' Lamar Odom said after a light practice Friday.
``We're going to have a good time, hang out together,'' Jordan Farmar said.
Odom said he received a text message Thursday night informing him of the gathering.
``We're going to go to some restaurant,'' he said. ``We've got a couple funny guys who keep guys loose. We have some personalities.''
Who was picking up the tab?
``Hopefully the MVP,'' Odom replied, loud enough for Kobe Bryant to hear and eliciting a protest.
Odom recently told a story on his Web site about a team dinner before the first-round series against Denver in which Bryant treated his teammates.
``As soon as he picked up the bill, we all started chanting, 'MVP, MVP, MVP!'' Odom said.
Bryant, who hears the ``MVP, MVP'' chant on a regular basis at Staples Center and sometimes at visiting arenas as well, appears to be the leading candidate for his first Most Valuable Player award, expected to be presented next week.
Utah took a 3-2 lead into Game 6 with Houston, and the Lakers were mindful that a victory by the Jazz would mean Game 1 of the second-round series would be played Sunday at Staples Center - six days after Los Angeles completed its first-round sweep of the Nuggets.
A win by Houston would mean the Rockets and Jazz would play Game 7 on Sunday, and the winner wouldn't face the Lakers until Tuesday night at the earliest. That would mean the Lakers would have more than a week between games.
``If we play on Sunday, we'll be ready on Sunday,'' Bryant said. ``If we play on Tuesday, then we'll be ready on Tuesday. I hope Utah wins so I can answer questions about Utah.''
Bryant said he was pulling for the Jazz for one basic reason - to get the second-round series going sooner rather than later.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson said the coaching staff had nothing to do with the team deciding to watch the Rockets-Jazz game together.
``That's theirs. They've done it before,'' he said.
Jackson said the Lakers ``were real sloppy'' in practice Friday. Earlier in the week, he said the team wouldn't practice Saturday if it wasn't going to play Sunday. But following Friday's practice, he said there would be practice Saturday, but Sunday might be a day off if there's no game.
Jackson also said that backup forward Trevor Ariza, sidelined since breaking his right foot in practice Jan. 20, might be cleared for full contact next week. Team spokesman John Black said Ariza is scheduled to have a CT scan next Friday.
``We're not going to put a target date on that yet,'' Black said regarding Ariza's return.

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