LOS ANGELES—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 on October 26 against the Houston Rockets.
But that’s nothing new for the six-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 USA 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 USA’s 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.
“...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 after 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...[now] I can get my second wind and fight the fatigue.”
Kobe Bryant, who sat out the first three practice sessions, participated in Monday night’s practice.
Bryant has been working himself back into shape after having surgery on his right knee last month.
“He looked good,” Jackson said. “He had no significant problem with it. A little swelling [in his knee], obviously, but I think that’s it.”
Bryant didn’t practice on Tuesday.