Lakers’ Lamar Odom comes in handy

By Broderick Turner
Los Angeles Times

September 28, 2010

OK, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said with a smile after practice Tuesday, call Lamar Odom “our handyman.”

And this will be another season in which Odom plays the handyman role in the frontcourt.

With center Andrew Bynum rehabilitating his surgically repaired right knee, and with Pau Gasol moving to center, Odom will start at power forward when the Lakers open the regular season Oct. 26 against the Houston Rockets.

But that’s nothing new for the 6-foot-10 Odom.

He started the first 11 regular-season games last season when Gasol was out with a hamstring injury. In all, Odom started 38 games last season.

“That’s the strength of my game, is to be able to play anywhere on the court,” Odom said. “That’s what I look forward to doing the most.”

Even this summer when he played for the U.S. national team, Odom displayed his handyman skills.

USA Coach Mike Krzyzewski made Odom the starting center on his undersized team that won the FIBA World Championship in Istanbul, Turkey.

In the final game this month, Odom had 15 points on seven-for-nine shooting to go along with 11 rebounds in the gold-medal victory over Turkey.

The handyman was at his best, again.

“That’s how I started playing the game. Looks like that’s how I’m going to end playing it,” Odom, 30, said. “It allows me to be coachable because I can adapt, from you telling me you want me to take more shots to me not taking any shots.

“With some units we have out there. I’m willing to pass, rebound. If you get on me enough, I’ll take my man and try to [score on] him. That’s what I have the most fun doing.”

So, Odom will start until Bynum returns. He’ll help run the offense, fight for rebounds, pass to open teammates, and he’ll shoot when necessary.

“He’s a very valuable player to us,” Jackson said. “A lot of times people say, ‘Lamar is out there and he just gets us eight rebounds and six points and four assists.’ But it’s not that. It’s about what he does on the floor.”

So far, this has been Odom’s best training camp under Jackson.

In past training camps, Jackson has chided Odom about his conditioning for taking a lot of time off during the off-season. Not this time.

“He looks like he’s in really great shape,” Jackson said.

Odom admits he came back ready to play.

“Last year, I was in pretty good shape,” Odom said. “But this [summer] I’ve been playing so much basketball. I guess basketball shape sometimes is a little different to just getting in shape