Phil Jackson believes good performances from Lamar Odom and Ron Artest will be instrumental in Game 5 against Boston
There's rarely a long stretch of games where Lakers Coach Phil Jackson doesn't needle Lamar Odom. When the versatile and jack-of-all-trades forward occasionally falls into his disappearing act, Jackson's barbs often serve as an effort to wake someone up who largely has been known for struggling in maintaining his focus.
Well, with how Odom has played in these NBA Finals, and particularly in the Lakers' 96-89 Game 4 loss Thursday to Boston, Jackson believes it's going to take more than just a mild insult to do the trick.
"I was thinking of an electrode," Jackson said, drawing laughs from reporters. "Something that would really be a stimulus."
There were plenty of other areas he mildly griped about Friday, where the team had off with exception to utility players fitting in individual workouts. Jackson expressed skepticism in the idea to increase DJ Mbenga's role because of the uncertainty regarding Andrew Bynum's playing status Sunday for Game 5, due to the increased swelling in the torn cartilage of his right knee. "Sure," Jackson confirmed as an option, "if his head is into it." He remained amused with the Celtics' outward emotions in Game 4 when they led a fourth-quarter charge. "That's not the way I like to coach a team," Jackson said. And he reluctantly praised Celtics Coach Doc Rivers for developing his bench, keying in on matchups and pacing his veteran team for the playoffs: "Is that enough for you?" Jackson asked a reporter. "I'll give him a gold star."
But Jackson cast most of his attention on Odom, who's one of two players Jackson believes needs to have a big game. Lakers forward Ron Artest is the other player, who has had a mixed bag defending Celtics forward Paul Pierce, while providing little to offer on offense during the Finals beyond a poor shooting percentage (32.4%).
With how the Lakers played in Game 4 without Bynum for most of the second half, Jackson is alerting his team that the contributions will be needed more from everyone. Kobe Bryant will likely receive more defensive scrutiny. Pau Gasol will receive more physical beatings inside. And Derek Fisher may be called upon to hit more clutch shots. All those three have filled that role this series. Odom and Artest, on the other hand, have not.
Odom's 10 points and seven rebounds in Game 4 reflected the 7.5 points and 5.3 rebounds he's averaged through four FInals games, demonstrating his tendency to defer too much to other teammates and what Jackson believes are uncomfortable feelings Odom still has from the Lakers' 2008 Finals loss to the Celtics. Artest's nine points on four-of-10 shooting in Game 4 mirrored the eight points he's averaging in the Finals.
Despite the inconsistency, both have shown they're capable of meeting Jackson's current expectations. Odom posted four double-doubles in the Lakers' Western Conference finals matchup against Phoenix, and led the bench with 12 points in the Lakers' Game 3 NBA FInals victory over Boston. Artest followed his improbable putback in the Lakers' Game 5 West finals victory against Phoenix with 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting in Game 6.
We'll soon find out if both Odom and Artest can live up to Jackson's billing.
"Both of them are capable of playing big in games that are like this," Jackson said. "We have confidence, and I have confidence that Ron is going to have a game and be ready for a ballgame. He's had a really tough shooting situation in this series and he hasn't done well, and defensively he's been fine, but offensively it hasn't been quite the same."
--Mark Medina, in Boston
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Photo: Lakers Coach Phil Jackson and forward Lamar Odom have an animated discussion during a game in the Western Conference finals against Phoenix. Credit: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times.