Teams that are AEG tenants know they will spend extended time away from home

Standing at his locker, Kobe Bryant was the picture of confident nonchalance after Tuesday night's win over the Knicks.

Dressed in a tweed sport coat and cable-knit sweater with a turtleneck thick enough to yoke an ox, Bryant said he was well prepared for the nine-game, 14-day trip the Lakers begin today, with his seven "Louie's" - Vuitton, presumably - already packed, apparently ready to take to the road with more provisions than Roald Amundsen.

Though this is the longest journey in Lakers' history - in time, distance and number of games (almost one-fourth of their road schedule) - this isn't all new for Bryant.

As anyone who's played for the Lakers, Kings, Clippers, Galaxy or Chivas USA can attest, long trips away from home are part of the package when you play in a building owned by Anschutz Entertainment Group.

For the soccer tenants, that means getting the boot from the Home Depot Center for two weeks in August to make way for the X Games. And for the denizens of Staples Center, it means having to clean out your lockers - quite literally - for a fortnight in February when the Grammy Awards come to town.

Not exactly a home-field advantage.

"That depends if they're winning or losing," said Lee Zeidman, the senior vice president and general manager of Staples Center and the neighboring Nokia Theater.

"Now, with the way the Lakers are playing, I'm sure there is some concern. But we do our best to consult with the Lakers, Kings and Clippers and the reality is that this is the economics of these big-time arenas.

"The revenue that's generated goes to capital improvements and maintenance. And these are prestigious events."

For the next two weeks, the Kings, Clippers and Lakers will have be comforted by that - and mints on their pillows.

Though the Lakers, whose season hangs in the balance, have more at stake, the Kings play eight games in 16 days away from home, and the Clippers hitthe road for seven games in13 days.

"You make sure you get the movie schedules," Kings center Derek Armstrong said.

"You pack more than two pairs of underwear," Lakers forward Ronny Turiaf said.

Several players said it's quite common to forget what city you're in, or which hotel you've woken up in, or which clothes to wear outside.

That's not a problem, Bryant said, unless "I do that in Minnesota, when I think I'm in Orlando."

This year's trips are even longer than years past, in part because of the Grammys have asked for more time to set up.

In fact, by the time the Clippers finished Wednesday night's game with Atlanta, work crews had spent three days emptying storage rooms, locker rooms and pre-rigging the lighting and sound.

Beginning today, they'll work 24 hours a day for a week, removing 800 fixed seats, constructing a stage at one end of the arena, and hanging more than 350,000 pounds of lights and sound equipment from the roof.

Then, once the show is over Feb. 10, they'll have less 72 hours to have it ready for the Clippers, when they play host to Washington.

"There's a tremendous amount of work to do," Zeidman said.

The AEG facilites aren't the only ones that force tenants out for special shows. The Bulls and Blackhawks leave Chicago each fall for Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus, and the Spurs are in the midst of a 17-day absence from their arena because of the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo.

If nothing else, Staples Center should at least smell better.

Yet as a harbinger of how perilous these trips can be, the Spurs began theirs with back-to-back losses to Utah and Seattle, the latter of which snapped a 14-game losing streak. The Spurs, without Tony Parker, and the Lakers, without Andrew Bynum, have a cushion of 2 and 2 games, respectively, between themselves and the ninth-place team in the Western Conference heading into Wednesday night's games.

"It's tough because I don't think anybody would vote for that," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "You wouldn't want to go for that long. We do it, the Lakers do it. San Antonio has the rodeo. If that type of trip goes against you, it can really go against you - it can snowball. When you go on one of those trips and you're not fully healthy or you've got some issues, it can be a real positive or it can be a real negative."

Two years ago, the trip proved to be a boon for the Clippers. While many wondered how long their fast start would last, the Clippers went 4-2 when they had to be out for the Grammys - the two losses narrow defeats at Miami and Detroit, the best teams in the East.

It helped propel them to within one game of the Western Conference finals.

"My first year here, on that road trip, everybody said, `Oh, it's a make or break'," Clippers guard Sam Cassell said. "We won (four) of (six) and it was, `Oh, the Clippers are for real. Good teams want to showcase what they can do on the road."

Last summer, the Galaxy had hoped to use the arrival of David Beckham as a springboard out of mediocrity. Instead, when it returned from two weeks away for the X Games, it tied once and lost three times, its season heading into a freefall of injuries and poor play, which ended with it missing the playoffs.

"You just kind of look at it at the beginning of the season that it's going to suck, you're going to be gone all of August, but at least you get to prepare for it," Galaxy forward Landon Donovan said. "We were at a point where we were going back and forth and back and forth between games and it killed us."

Chivas had the opposite problem. It had three weeks without a game last year, so maintaining sharpness was an issue. Then when the teams finally returned home, they played on a re-sodded field that looked like an Amish quilt.

"For all the positives that being part of the AEG family brings us, there are certainly challenges also," said Alexi Lalas, president of the Galaxy, which is owned by AEG. "The fact that the X Games come in here and cause us to go on the road, it's a challenge. It's not perfect. But the reality is we are also a business and this stadium is also a business.

"Until we're at a point where we have the amount of events, in terms of soccer, and more importantly, the amount of revenue generation that teams around the world have, we're going to have to be patient and deal with it."

Lakers coach Phil Jackson has had plenty of practice dealing with it. When he coached the Bulls, they'd have to leave town for a circus and an ice show. He tries to use this trip each year as an opportunity to build team unity, which comes into play during the playoffs.

Jackson spent time earlier this week scouring a local book store to buy books for his players to read.

There are also plans to watch the Super Bowl together in Manhattan, something Odom - a New York native who has a Giants jersey hanging in his locker - wants a hand in arranging. There may be a movie night and a couple of team dinners.

"We have to bear up," Jackson said. "I was looking forward to this trip being a trip in which the team would kind of unify itself and build the kind of resolve you need for playoff games because you're out on the road a lot. We'll see how we do. It'll be interesting. I'm curious."

The envelope, please.