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LAKERS FYI

Lamar Odom's play keeps improving

Veteran has increased his aggressiveness with drives to the basket and also has worked on his finesse game.

February 23, 2009|Mike Bresnahan

MINNEAPOLIS — Lamar Odom stared at his left leg before Sunday's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

There was a knot below the kneecap that verged on golf-ball size, the result of a "battle in the trenches" he called it, probably from the Lakers' game against New Orleans a couple of days earlier, though he wasn't quite sure.

Then he went out, scored 25 points and took 14 rebounds, his sixth double-double in the last seven games, his knot to be forgotten against the size-challenged Timberwolves.

"I feel pretty comfortable right now," he said, in case his play hadn't demonstrated it.

Odom has increased his aggressiveness with drives to the basket but has also worked on his finesse game.

The extra time invested in his outside shot was evident Sunday when he hit from 13 feet, 19 feet and 21 feet.

He is also moving better without the ball, knowing when to cut to the basket to get the ball down low and when to curl off a screen to hit a jump shot.

"That's something I couldn't do two seasons ago," he said. "I didn't know when to cut and how to make the play without the ball. Playing with Kobe [Bryant] and then playing with Pau [Gasol], and then Andrew [Bynum] started coming along, it's not like I'm going to be able to just take my man one on one. I've got to stay in the flow, and that's usually without the ball."

Odom has also been working with something else -- his right hand.

He notoriously favors his left hand, but he used his right to tip in Bryant's miss with 20.5 seconds left, a play that gave the Lakers a 108-105 lead. They eventually won, 111-108.

"I just kind of went up and it came out instinctively, which is good," Odom said of his right hand.

The Lakers won't be complaining, for sure.

"The thing about Lamar is that he has a sense of purpose," Bryant said. "He knows what he needs to do. As a player in this league, a lot of times it's kind of figuring out what your niche is. Once you figure that out, the game becomes a lot easier."

Rest time?

The starters keep accruing heavy minutes to compensate for Bynum's absence, which will last at least five more weeks, but Coach Phil Jackson isn't concerned.

"No, not yet. Maybe in April at some point we may watch it," he said. "We've shut down players before and gave them a week off here and there -- players that we thought needed the rest at times during the end of the regular season. But at this particular point, we're still pushing on."

Odom logged almost 41 minutes against Minnesota, followed by Gasol (almost 39 minutes) and Bryant (almost 37 minutes).

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mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

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