Phil Jackson: Odom “Likely” To Start

Lamar Odom - Luis ScolaSubsequent to L.A.’s Wednesday morning shootaround, head coach Phil Jackson said that Lamar Odom would likely move into the starting lineup for the 7:30 p.m. tip against Houston.

The decision that would put Andrew Bynum onto the bench won’t become concrete until, at the earliest, Jackson’s pregame media session. Here are a few guesses, in ABCDE-style, as to why Jackson might make the change:

A) Bynum’s inclusion in the starting lineup can limit the early offensive activity for Pau Gasol, who’s among the league’s best when the action runs through him whether he’s shooting or passing.

B) Of the two low-post scorers, Gasol may have a better chance of getting Rockets center Yao Ming to commit fouls on the low block, or at least forcing him to play 1-on-1 defense in the paint. Furthermore, the threat of Gasol’s 15-footer is likely to force Yao out of the lane at times, in contrast to Game 1 where he was most effective when camped out in the lane. With the big man stepping out, driving lanes open for L.A.’s wing players.

C) Starting gives Odom the best chance to get into the flow of the game, which will be particularly important heading into the fourth quarter. Coming off the bench in the regular season is different from the playoffs, since the minutes are less loosely dispersed. Odom played 16 minutes in the first half of Monday’s loss, but only managed four points, two boards and an assist. He finished with nine points, five boards and three assists in 31 minutes and missed 6-of-7 free throw attempts.

D) When Bynum comes in off the pine, the 21-year-old will – at least at times – have a big matchup advantage. Since Yao probably can’t play 40 minutes as he did in Game 1, the Rockets will have to send the much smaller Carl Landry or Chuck Hayes (if not Luis Scola) on to contend with L.A.’s seven footer. And with Kobe Bryant or Gasol likely be on the bench, Bynum’s aggressiveness on offense will work just fine. While the coaching staff would like him to focus on his defense and rebounding at that stage, the ability to dump the ball down to a big center with a matchup advantage is enticing.

E) Foul trouble isn’t as much of an issue when coming off the bench.

Stay tuned before the game for Jackson’s official announcement of his starting five, which you can find through the home page or our Playoff Central page.