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Lakers forward Lamar Odom ready for new role

When Andrew Bynum is ready to start, Odom will be coming off the bench.

December 15, 2010|By Mike Bresnahan

Reporting from Indianapolis

Lamar Odom is still a starter, but not much longer.

Even though the Lakers are more up-tempo with Odom instead of Andrew Bynum, Coach Phil Jackson is enticed by the size of a starting frontcourt with Bynum and fellow 7-footer Pau Gasol.

It might be a couple of weeks before Bynum regains his starting spot, but it will happen, Jackson said Wednesday.

"We want Andrew to be in the starting lineup and give us that impact, that size that sometimes is imposing on other teams," Jackson said. "When we function in a running flow, we're probably better with Lamar out there because we have more ballhandlers, but our size and length is pretty daunting with those two [seven-footers] out there."

Odom has been quietly playing some of the best basketball of his 12-year career.

After a strong summer with Team USA, Odom is averaging 15.7 points and 10 rebounds in 35.3 minutes a game with the Lakers. He is also shooting an impressive 58.6%, well above his career average of 46.3%.

But Odom seems fine with a move back to the bench, whenever it happens.

"I knew Andrew would get better and start," Odom said. "Even if I was averaging 35, when Andrew got back I wouldn't be starting."

Because of Bynum's injury tendencies over the years, Odom has started 94 of the 96 games missed by Bynum.

Bynum was a step slow Wednesday in the Lakers' 109-94 victory over Indiana, just missing a blocked shot on Brandon Rush as the Pacers guard blew past him for a layup. Bynum also airballed a seven-foot hook shot on the way to three points on one-for-four shooting in almost 18 minutes.

"Some of his activity is still limited," Jackson said. "He missed a couple of shots I thought he could block defensively. He [got] tired, and that's going to happen, but we're happy he made it through this game and we can move forward."

Odom had 13 points and 17 rebounds against Indiana.

Vujacic trade update

The Lakers received more than just veteran forward Joe Smith and about $8 million in salary and luxury-tax relief after sending Sasha Vujacic and a 2001 first-rounder to New Jersey.

They also received Golden State's second-round selection in 2011 and Chicago's second-round selection in 2012, both via New Jersey. The Warriors' pick next June might be only a handful of spots lower than the first-rounder the Lakers gave up.

The Lakers also received the rights to 6-foot-10 Ukrainian forward Sergei Lishouk, 28, who was drafted by Memphis with the 49th pick in 2004 and had his rights traded to Houston in 2008. He has played in the past for the Ukrainian national team and is currently playing professionally in Europe.

Finally, the Lakers earned a trade exception of about $5 million that can be applied to help make salaries match in any trade within a year as per NBA guidelines.

Smith, 35, will take a physical in Philadelphia on Thursday and might be available to play against the 76ers on Friday.

Rookie forwards Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter could be sent down to the Development League next month if Smith proves to be a good backup for Odom, Jackson said.

"Hopefully, it can get these kids some playing time and advance their career," he said.

Jackson spoke privately to Vujacic before saying goodbye to him Wednesday.

"I told him he's always going to be family to me," Jackson said. "He played on two championship teams. He deserves that notoriety as having played and contributed on a championship team."

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

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