One of the major bright spots- only bright spots, really- of Tuesday's loss to the Jazz in Anaheim was the play of Lamar Odom. More specifically, his nine assists, representing almost half the team's total. The 6'10" power forward's highly developed passing skills aren't a state secret, but significantly he delivered many of those dimes from the paint, whether posting up and kicking out of a double or off the drive.
Yes, he only scored two points (less a factor when he plays into nine other buckets), but where he set up shop is important.
The amount of time Odom spends near the bucket could help determine if he returns to his uber-effective play of the '08-'09 season. Via 82Games.com, that year 59 percent of his shots were inside looks. Last season, the percentage flipped, as jumpers accounted for 51 percent of his attempts. While this only measures shots (as opposed to assist and rebound ratios, both of which increased last year), they confirm what most of us saw: Odom spent far too much time loitering around the perimeter.
This summer, as key member of Team USA's gold medal team at the FIBA World Championships, many (myself included) focused more on Odom's role as a leader on a youth-dominated team, wondering if any of that might carry over with the Lakers.Meanwhile, more practical applications of his time there were underplayed. Odom played center with Team USA. An undersized center who certainly left the post, but a center nonetheless, doing center stuff. The results show. This preseason he's done a nice job sealing guys on the block, using his body to gain good position on entry passes, and has displayed great patience absorbing double teams and finding the open man. Nothing Odom hasn't done over the course of his career, but spending that much time as a post player allowed Odom to polish skills not utilized often enough last year.
With Andrew Bynum on the shelf, Pau Gasol's ability to thrive in the high post as a scorer and passer should allow Odom ample opportunity to work on the block when the matchups are favorable. Last season, Odom was too deferential, ceding space in the post to everyone from the other bigs to Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest. This season, he needs to reclaim some of that space, and the Lakers find more ways to help him do it. Combined with Odom's ability to run the floor and enter the paint off dribble penetration, it could mean a major boost to the offense.