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Odom shows a positive side

Despite a reserve role, he says he won't be 'detrimental' as Lakers win exhibition, 94-89.

October 13, 2008|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS -- Lamar Odom wasn't a starter for the first time since ninth grade, but he seemed at peace with it, if not apologetic for his recent anti-establishment attitude.

Odom had four points and nine rebounds as a reserve in the Lakers' 94-89 exhibition victory Sunday against Sacramento. He also offered up an intriguing interview beforehand.

He had been on opposite poles of Coach Phil Jackson for weeks, publicly questioning him at the team's annual media day, but an olive branch was extended Sunday night.

"That was like my alter-ago talking," Odom said of last month's outburst. "Seriously. That's Odom. Not Lamar. I'm being dead serious. I'm a good locker-room dude. I don't want to be detrimental to the team, especially, like, how this is a championship-caliber team."

It's been an unusual block of time for a player considered one of the friendliest on the team, if not the league. A year ago, he shelled out about $40,000 during training camp to feed teammates every day in Honolulu -- morning, noon and night. Now, he feels he's getting shelled on all sides . . . in a contract year, no less.

His representatives asked the Lakers for a contract extension during the summer, but the team said it would defer until the end of this season. With Andrew Bynum looking at a hefty raise and Kobe Bryant possibly opting out of his contract (and re-signing at a higher price), there might not be a lot of leftover money for Odom.

In the meantime, Odom's shift to reserve status was not necessarily permanent. Jackson said he planned to experiment with different starting lineups right up to the Oct. 28 opener against Portland. Maybe Odom will be back in the starting lineup by then.

Some of Odom's closest associates said he was unhappy about coming off the bench, despite Sunday's declaration he was fine with it.

Just the same, Odom promised to go with the flow.

"You only get one or two shots at this, you know what I'm saying? I'll do it. Jeff Schwartz will probably hate it," he said, referring to his agent, who will handle contract negotiations next summer.

"For some guys, they might not be able to take it well, especially in their contract year. Whatever. I'm good. I've made enough. I'm OK. My family's good. Hopefully I can win a championship here and be rewarded for it."

Vladimir Radmanovic started in Odom's place against Sacramento, scoring nine points in 19 minutes.

Pau Gasol started quickly and finished with 12 points and six rebounds. Andrew Bynum had nine points, took five rebounds and also looked a little more alert on defense, blocking two shots.

During pregame introductions, Odom stood in line with the reserves as the starters were called onto the court. Then he went to the bench and grabbed a seat near the end, between DJ Mbenga and Trevor Ariza.

He entered the game midway through the first quarter and hit a quick three-point shot. He looked back at the bench and smiled.

Jackson, who said Odom appeared to be playing a game of curling in an exhibition last week, continued to prod Odom before the game.

"In this day and age, players really keep themselves in shape -- except for Lamar -- just about the whole season and the off-season," Jackson said.

Odom, however, earned praise from Jackson afterward by being more assertive on the boards than in the first two exhibitions.

"He came out with initiative," Jackson said. "He came out there right away and started playing hard. I liked that."

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Sasha Vujacic (sprained ankle) and Luke Walton (off-season ankle surgery) did not suit up for Sunday's game.

Vujacic is expected to return to practice this week and Walton said he would be ready for the Lakers' next exhibition, Saturday against Regal FC Barcelona at Staples Center.

Sun Yue, who had been battling mononucleosis, also did not play Sunday.

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mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

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