Keeping Up With Lamar: Nov. 18 Edition

62369059Lamar Odom took some time with us after Thursday’s practice in Minneapolis to discuss his newly-refined right hand, his health and the team’s harmonious level of chemistry:

Throughout his entire professional career, coaches have been trying to get Lamar Odom to use his right hand, particularly around the rim. Not that it ever really worked … and the lanky lefty is the first to admit it. Phil Jackson and his assistants have certainly been harping on the issue in the past few years, but through the first 11 games of 2010-11, apparently the message has (finally) gotten through.

“I’ve been trying to change my body mechanics this year where I’m using my right hand more,” Odom said. “Because my body is so used to going left, finishing left, that I’m trying to get my mind right and think about it. That’s why I box, just for the mechanics of it. Now I just try to use it.”

103882436AE009Lakers_PistonsOdom said that opponents had no choice but to overplay his left in the past, yet he still managed to get to the rim at least a few time a game with his gliding, hop-step move, his unique combination of length and quickness being enough to combat even a defender who knew it was coming. But this season, he’s simply gone right as defenders have allowed him (see picture to right), converting righty layups in three consecutive games, including and-one’s against both Milwaukee and Detroit.

“Being around players like Kobe (Bryant), Pau (Gasol), Andrew (Bynum) and even Ron (Artest), who can all use both hands, I wanted to join the pack,” he continued. “I think it’s something I just had to add to my repertoire after finishing almost (solely) with my left in the past, even though my game was pretty good like that. I think it will keep me tougher to guard. I think I can beat a lot of guys mentally if they’re like, ‘Oh, he might go right and finish right,’ I think mentally I’ll have them messed up.”

It’s notable that Odom’s left thumb has been bugging him since he strained it in the preseason, perhaps encouraging him to use his right hand more, but he seems convinced he’s doing it for the benefit of his game. Odom even offered an anecdote, suggesting that he’s pretty happy with how development is working out thus far.

“I made a move (Wednesday) night I was proud of even though I missed the shot,” he said. “I came across to the middle, caught the ball at the free throw line, kinda hesi’d*, got (Charlie) Villanueva to come to me, dipped my shoulder to get around him … I feel like I can continue to do things like that and get better.”
*Lamar’s lexicon for “hesitated,” or “hesitation dribble.”

Continuing to get better is a phrase we constantly (and rightfully) associate with Bryant, most notably, but Odom says he’s really enjoying having Phil Jackson and players like Kobe and Gasol around on a daily basis from whom to learn. He feels that he’s been able to take a lot of that out onto the floor, and it’s paid off from a production standpoint in the form of 14.9 points on 58 percent shooting from the field and three-point range, 10.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists, numbers nearly identical to his outstanding 2007-08 season despite four fewer minutes on the floor (38 then to 34 now).

It also helps that his body is feeling very strong from a macro perspective, helping him overcome several micro aches through camp and the early regular season, including that left thumb, a sore nose and a sore right foot upon which a Monday MRI came back negative.

“My body is about as hard as it’s going to get,” he explained, adding the word “tight” to clarify. “My muscle memory is good. I could take a week off of lifting and get back to it and still feel good.”

We know that Odom’s performance for the U.S. National team at the World Championships — in which Toronto head coach and U.S. assistant Jay Triano said Odom was the team’s most important player — helped him come into the season in perhaps the best shape of his career. And while the native New Yorker acknowledges that he has to be aware of his body so as not to wear down prior to or in the playoffs, it’s not something about he worries.

“Nah,” he said. “I’m cool. Really, I’m fine.”

Nearly as significant as his performance on the floor is what Odom brings to L.A.’s locker room. One of his newest teammates, Steve Blake, called Odom the “Cool friend that everybody likes,” and the fact that he’s universally liked amongst his teammates is quite obvious.

“I’m just being myself,” Odom said. “I’ve never had a problem with saying hello to somebody. I’ve been on a team all my life … it’s the one thing I do know.”

As such, he’s in a pretty good position to evaluates what appears to be a very good team vibe.

“I think that this team, because of the age, is pretty mature as far as their role, what they’re going to give the team and how they’re going to contribute,” he concluded. “Everyone is content about their role. Not because they don’t want more, but because they understand what they have to give and they’re willing to give that. It causes the kind of balance that we need.”