Lamar Odom starting at small forward changes the Lakers' dynamic
Versatility and consistency made Odom the perfect winner for the NBA's sixth man of the year. His skillset made any Andrew Bynum absence, injury-related or otherwise, seamless. And Odom's personality made it a non-issue. But Odom's revelation to The Times' Broderick Turner that he will start in place of suspended Ron Artest for Game 3 of the playoffs against the Mavericks in Dallas brings a whole different dimension.
There's really not a dependable sample size to make an accurate judgment on how a triple-tower lineup featuring Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Odom will look like. Heck, 82games.com, which tracks such trends, doesn't have statistical data showing that lineup has ever been used this season. The small glimpses have actually shown this to be only the 10th-most effective lineup combination when used in the 2009-10 season, according to 82games.com, but it very well could be a wild-card adjustment that will change the course of a series. With Gasol lacking confidence and consistency, Bynum lamenting the lack of help on defense and Odom having mixed results in leading a poor second unit, this could help jump-start the Lakers' fledgling inside presence against the Mavericks' Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood.
Interestingly enough, Odom had often wanted to play in this role, a major topic of discussion during his exit interview a week after the Lakers won the 2010 NBA title.
"Just our team and when I think about the triangle offense, I think about size and I think about ball-handling," Odom said at the time. "I think about us posting up and using the ability to post up to slow teams down. Our defense is predicated on our offense; I feel like we could help this team if we go toward a big lineup. It could be one of the lineups we go to to slow the game down and make the game more methodical."
Against Dallas, that might make it more manageable to double team on Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki, whom the Lakers have had trouble defending. It might also make it easier for Gasol and Bynum to penetrate without having to "see a sea of blue or white," as Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle put it.
But it's misleading to say this will happen. This lineup combination could very well be disastrous. It could give Dallas even more season to mostly defend inside and force the Lakers to shoot three-pointers, a bad temptation considering the Lakers went two-of-20 from the field in Game 2. It could add more disruption to the Lakers' inside game and make all three big men uneasy on how to adapt to each other's roles. And as Odom conceded after Thursday's practice, it'll require further wrinkles to a defensive rotation the Lakers currently have had trouble comprehending.
"I'll adjust and try to impact the game wherever I am on the court," Odom said. "You start from the outside rather than starting from inside and trying to have our bigs from the post to the corner."
One thing is for certain. For better or worse, Odom's move to the starting small forward spot will drastically determine the outcome of the game.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Lakers forward Lamar Odom reacts after making a shot while drawing a foul against Dallas in the first half of Game 2 on Wednesday night at Staples Center. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times