The Clippers suffered a significant setback when small forward Lamar Odom was suspended Nov. 5 for eight games for violating the NBA's anti-drug policy.
The Clippers went 5-3 without Odom, but that's not what troubled Coach Alvin Gentry on Wednesday. Gentry hoped to have a handle on his team by now, but he's still wondering how good the Clippers can be.
"Because we just got Lamar back, we're still trying to find out a little bit about our team," Gentry said of the Clippers, who have a 7-8 record after Wednesday's victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
"We had Lamar for three games, then we didn't have him for eight, then we've had him for [four] more. We're still trying to figure out how everything is going to flow.... Having him out sets us back from knowing the type of team we're going to have."
However, Gentry has no plans to alter his training camp plans for Odom.
"He's missed more than half our games, but he's going to play and he's going to play a lot of minutes," Gentry said. "We're still going to run our offense through him and Elton [Brand] and some other guys. So it's set us back some, but it's also given us an opportunity to see what kind of player Corey Maggette [who replaced Odom for 11 games] is."
As promised, Gentry gave Odom his first start since he was suspended. Maggette started all three games after Odom was reinstated last week.
Compounding matters was Odom's badly bruised left foot, suffered Nov. 3 against the Golden State Warriors. Odom said he believes his foot is probably about 80%, but is much improved from last week.
Gentry took Odom's foot into consideration when determining that he would trim the length of several of his players' minutes, starting with Wednesday's game.
"I'm going to try to avoid playing Lamar in 15-to 18-minute stretches," he said. "I think he'll be much more effective in eight-to 10-minute stretches."