PLAYA VISTA, Calif. – Soon enough, Lamar Odom is going to make his point. Or his detractors are going to make theirs.
Ever since the Clippers traded for the 6-foot-10 Odom last June 29, the question has always been, which Odom are they getting?
“For the record, I think I’ll be the Lamar of 2010,” Odom said Monday after taking part in his first practice in two weeks. “That’s the Lamar you’re going to get.”
After he slogged his way through last season with the Dallas Mavericks, who finally sent him home in April, there are still plenty of skeptics who wonder if Odom is capable of returning to his 2010-11 form, when he won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award with the Lakers.
Clippers fans might find out Wednesday night at Staples Center when the team opens the regular season against the Memphis Grizzlies, the team it beat in the first round of the playoffs.
Odom hasn’t played since Oct. 14 because of a bone bruise in his left knee in addition to weight and conditioning concerns, but he said it’s possible he could play in the opener. He left the final decision up to trainer Jasen Powell.
Odom took part in about half of the team’s practice session and later dismissed any talk about weight or conditioning issues. Vinny Del Negro never mentioned them.
“It was good to see him out there,” Del Negro said. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow. He didn’t do everything. (He did) some things. He said he felt good.”
More practice time will allow Odom, who has played in just three preseason games, to acclimate himself to his role and his new teammates. Once he’s up to speed, he’ll be a primary reserve and backup to Blake Griffin and center DeAndre Jordan.
“He has so much versatility,” Del Negro said. “It’s one of his strengths. We’ll use him in different areas. But first thing, we’ve got to get him out there and get him accustomed to the ‘four’ position, and as he learns things offensively and defensively, his versatility will show by the way he plays.”
Odom, who turns 33 next week, understands he has doubters. But he said he’s not out to prove anyone wrong, that it’s his competitive nature that drives him.
“I’m a professional competitor,” he said. “If it was chess, I’d want to beat you. If it was a debate, I’d want to beat you. I compete for a living. That’s what I do.
“I compete against myself. It’s what I’ve done since I can remember. So having something to prove to myself, that’s old. If you and me were to race right now, I’d knock you down to try to beat you.”
That doesn’t sound much like the Odom who showed little passion for the game while in Dallas. He played in just 50 games last season, shot 35 percent from the field and averaged a career-low 6.6 points. His heart and his mind clearly were not with him.
Monday, he joked that he would be “the old Lamar, not the Dallas Lamar,” and seemed surprised that anyone would question his commitment. He rattled off some of his awards, including all-rookie team and Sixth Man.
“When I look at my resume,” he said, “I see some really solid stuff.”
But the Clippers are only concerned with what he does now. After finally practicing, it’s possible his season might start on time.
“I looked awesome,” he said of Monday’s workout, smiling. “To prove to all the doubters, I was hitting shots, throwing the ball in backwards. I hit a skyhook today, right in their face.”