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Lakers need to adjust the lineup

Pau Gasol will play center and Lamar Odom will start at power forward, a combination that helped team reach the NBA Finals.

February 01, 2009|Mike Bresnahan

MEMPHIS, TENN. — The Lakers will try to adjust to life without Andrew Bynum in the near future by going back to something from their recent past.

Pau Gasol is expected to shift to center and Lamar Odom will move from the second unit to starting power forward, a familiar combination that took the Lakers as far as the NBA Finals before unraveling against the Boston Celtics.

The two will try to create as little drop-off as possible without Bynum, who sustained a sprained right knee Saturday against Memphis.

"We have to [excel]. We have no choice, right?" Gasol said. "Hopefully Andrew will be back very soon with us. He's been playing amazing. The rest of the team is going to have to step up. Me and Lamar are going to play a lot of minutes and the guys on the bench have got to step up too."

The severity of Bynum's injury will be determined today after an MRI exam in New York.

Gasol, who was just selected to his second All-Star Game, is averaging 17.6 points and nine rebounds. Odom is averaging 9.4 points and 6.2 rebounds in 26.6 minutes a game. He averaged 14.2 points and 10.6 rebounds last season as a starter.

"We know we can play," Odom said. "Of course, we're a stronger team with Andrew. He was playing great. He was starting to get nasty out there."

Odom and Gasol keyed a second-half run Saturday to push the Lakers past the Grizzlies, 115-98.

The Lakers trailed by six at halftime but won the third quarter, 36-21, and cruised from there.

Gasol scored eight of his 24 points in the third quarter. Odom scored nine of his 13 points in the quarter.

"Lamar's obviously quite comfortable with his position out there," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "They got comfortable playing out there in the second half and showed that kind of game that they played last year during the playoff run.

"We're optimistic that we can play real well with that team. We're not at all 'Woe is me' right now. We do know that we want Andrew back for the playoff run, at least if we can get him back."

Backup center Chris Mihm will also get more playing time. He had two points on one-for-five shooting and six rebounds in 10 minutes against Memphis.

Shaq's back

Calling himself the "smartest player in the world," Shaquille O'Neal said his long-running feud with Kobe Bryant when they were Lakers teammates was nothing but a marketing ploy.

In an interview with ESPN, the Phoenix Suns center doled out compliments to Bryant and Jackson, painting a happy face on a tumultuous end to an eight-year tenure with the Lakers that concluded with his trade to Miami in 2004.

A lot of it is revisionist history, but it's nonetheless interesting whenever O'Neal, 36, revisits the past. He and Bryant will be Western Conference teammates Feb. 15 at the All-Star Game in Phoenix.

"I always did love Kobe," he said. "It was all marketing."

So they won't attack each other in the West locker room at US Airways Center?

"It's going to bring back great memories," O'Neal said. "[That] weekend is all about having fun, so we're going to have fun -- there are probably going to be a couple of give-and-go's -- and bring back old memories."

The compliments didn't end there.

"He's probably the MVP this year," O'Neal said of Bryant. "You know, he's a monster."

A monster?

"I'm just saying that young man is a beast," O'Neal said. "We all know he is a beast. LeBron [James] is a beast also, but [Bryant] is playing excellent ball right now. He's got his team playing well. He's leading by example."

O'Neal, who called Jackson "Benedict Arnold" shortly after the coach returned to the Lakers in 2005, had kind words for Jackson as well.

"He's the greatest coach ever." O'Neal said. "And he's done a lot for me. Phil's my guy. It's all marketing, baby."

Finally, O'Neal wrapped his arms around the Lakers franchise.

"It's always all about good thoughts," he said. "Everything that happened there happened for a reason."


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