Lamar Odom maintains his intensity heading into European trip
In a sweat-drenched practice jersey, Lakers forward Lamar Odom remained seated on the bench. Odom may have wiped the sweat off his face once the media gathered around him, but he still appeared as if he exhausted all his energy out on the floor.
Seeing the last five minutes of the Lakers' practice Thursday confirmed what Coach Phil Jackson saw the entire session: "Lamar ran a load of minutes out there." And Odom did so -- and forgive me if you've heard this before -- by fulfilling a valuable role in the post and on the glass. After contesting a shot, Odom sprinted down the court, caught a Ron Artest outlet pass and finished with a beautiful left-handed dunk. On the next play, Odom grabbed a board and pushed the ball up to Steve Blake, who eventually found Shannon Brown for an open jumper. A few possessions later, Blake returned the favor by feeding Odom an entry pass inside the paint. Odom caught the ball, pump-faked and then dribbled underneath the basket for the reverse lay-in.
Those sequences epitomized the versatile skill set Lakers fans know and love about Odom. But this intensity isn't something you'd expect the first week of training camp, as the Lakers try to pace themselves. You'd think Odom would take it slow after playing all summer for Team USA in the 2010 FIBA World Championships. And after hearing Jackson say some members of the team seemed distracted Thursday, it's only human nature for some fans to think Odom would fit that description instead of being the hardest worker in practice.
So as Odom sat on the bench before the assembled media, he may have felt fatigued but he didn't really complain about it. He admitted longing for the time he could spend all day resting and hanging out with wife and reality TV star Khloe Kardashian, but sounded genuinely excited about the Lakers' preseason games in Europe. That begins in London on Oct. 4 against the Minnesota Timberwolves and in Spain on Oct. 7 against Regal FC Barcelona. He laughed about possible coverage from the British tabloids when the Lakers are in London, though Kardaashian plans to stay in L.A. He joked with a reporter who predicted that Odom's favorite baseball team, the New York Yankees, would be eliminated from the postseason once the Lakers return to L.A.
By that point, the Lakers are hoping they find that their European games were much more than just an NBA marketing trip, including learning whether Odom played well enough in the starting lineup in place of Andrew Bynum, who's expected to miss all of the preseason and at least two to three weeks of the regular season as his surgically repaired right knee heals. Just don't think that Odom will allow energy concerns and a busy schedule to inhibit his game.
"Playing through fatigue is something that I wanted to get better at," Odom said. "If I'm tired, I want to find a way to keep myself on the court and still be able to make plays and still be able to concentrate and focus."
That's a considerable challenge, because he played basketball this summer with Team USA. But that experience is why Odom appears primed to overcome the obstacle. Though he believes he entered training camp in good shape last season, thanks to boxing lessons, Odom argues that being in "basketball shape" makes a considerable difference. Though he says it took him three or four days to adjust to the time difference in Turkey for the world championships, the process should be easier this time around in Europe. And though he acknowledges he's a "little tired," he says it's worth it to keep fighting because he'll "reap the benefits later."
Leading into training camp, I had wondered whether Odom's loaded schedule would lead to burnout. Though I still wonder how everything will turn out, I like his initial approach. Instead of just trying to save his energy, Odom is well aware that his Team USA experience could help short-cut the process of getting acclimated on the basketball court. So rather than allowing that momentum to dwindle, why not keep it sharp? While most of his teammates are just getting back in the groove, Odom is sharpening his game. There could be a point where he hits a wall, but pushing the envelope will help him realize that hitting the wall won't happen as quickly as he initially thought it would. I particularly liked his explanation of how he'll react when he realizes he's got little juice left.
"I'd rather keep my engine on and practice as hard as I can," he said during the Lakers' media day. "I'll be all right. I go after it pretty hard. I'm pretty sure that if I need the rest or get fatigued, Phil will understand."
But that point hasn't come yet. So for now, Odom will keep pushing along, posting up inside, grabbing rebounds, firing outlet passes and working outside the perimeter. It's a jack-of-all-trades role, and fans have known for a while that Odom excels at it. But the results appear magnified at full speed.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Lamar Odom grimaces after fouling out against the Suns in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals last spring. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times