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CLIPPERS REPORT

Odom Practices and Apologizes

March 15, 2001|LONNIE WHITE

For the first time since he was suspended a week ago for violating the league's anti-drug program, the Clippers' Lamar Odom practiced with his teammates Wednesday at L.A. Southwest College.

After it was over, Odom spoke about what led to his suspension. Although he did not say whether he tested positive for marijuana, Odom admitted he was solely responsible.

"All I had to do was keep my agreement with the league and keep in contact with those guys [in the anti-drug program]," Odom said. "I failed to do that. It was a mistake. It's something that can't happen again. Hopefully, now I can put it behind me and start to better myself."

Once Odom learned about his five-game suspension, the Clippers had hoped that he would have joined the team during their just-concluded 0-3 Texas trip. But Odom didn't and contacted only a couple of his teammates, including rookie Darius Miles and point guard Jeff McInnis.

"I was down a little bit," said Odom, who cannot play until Tuesday against Philadelphia at Staples Center. "I didn't go on the road and kind of just stayed by myself. Maybe that wasn't the best thing either. We could have got this over [talking about his suspension] a couple of days ago."

Before Wednesday's workout, Odom talked to his teammates and had a private meeting with Coach Alvin Gentry. With Odom back on the court, the Clippers had their most competitive practices since the All-Star break.

"It was good for the team to have Lamar back," McInnis said. "I think we had a great practice today; it was real spirited. Everyone was into it, and Lamar was looking sharp. It's as if he didn't miss a beat."

Now that Odom has returned, Gentry said it's time for the Clippers to move on and come together as a team.

"We are not the first team that this has happened to and we won't be the last," Gentry said.

Odom still must fulfill some requirements to keep his agreement with the league's anti-drug program.

"I just want to tell everyone I'm sorry, especially to my fans out there," Odom said. "It was just a real immature mistake. It was something that easily could have been taken care of, but I didn't do what I was supposed to do.

"This will definitely never happen again. The fans have been great to me since I've been here, and I hope it continues. I hope everyone doesn't pass judgment on my mistake. I've made a couple and I may make a couple again, but hopefully they won't be as big as this one."

Billy Hunter, president of the NBA Players Assn., agreed.

"It's unfortunate that he got suspended for five games," said Hunter, who met with the Clippers after practice to discuss several upcoming league issues.

"He has such a tremendous upside. In this league, I think Lamar can be as big as he wants to be. It's just an issue of him dedicating himself and disciplining himself to do what he has to do. . . . He didn't follow procedures. I was kind of surprised [about his suspension]. I think Lamar and I both got blindsided a little bit. I'm sure that is not going to happen again, Lamar is too sophisticated for that."

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