Odom continues to make progress

LOS ANGELES -- As Lamar Odom exited the Los Angeles Clippers' weight room Tuesday afternoon, he looked down at his newly defined biceps and smiled.

“They wouldn’t let these guns onto the plane,” he said. “Look at these guns.”

Odom’s “guns” were hardly recognizable before the start of the season as he came into training camp about 30 pounds overweight after vowing to spend the summer getting back into basketball shape.

This was supposed to be a reclamation season for Odom, whose 50 games with the Dallas Mavericks last season were mostly a disaster. Odom shot just 35 percent from the field and averaged a career-low 6.6 points for the Mavericks as the two parted ways before the end of the season in a divorce that was messier than anything on "Keeping Up With the Kardashians."

Few in Dallas were surprised to hear that Odom was out of shape to start the season with the Clippers, and even less were surprised to see how poorly he played the first month of the season. Odom averaged just 1.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and 0.7 assists prior to December. It was the kind of start that actually made the Clippers long for the enigmatic Odom that was in Dallas, as crazy as that sounds.

The biggest difference between Odom last season in Dallas and the one this season in Los Angeles is his role in the locker room. He might not be the same player who won the Sixth Man of the Year award in 2011, but he has taken a leadership role with the team. He has continually talked to players during practices and games about where they have to be on the court and the mindset they need to have to win a championship.

Odom, who didn’t speak with reporters after Tuesday’s practice, said during training camp that he leaned on the support of the newest Maverick when it came to advice before the start of the season.

“I spoke to a guy named Derek Fisher, one of the captains of my old teams," Odom said. "And we just talked about winning and the mindset of winning. We spoke for about 45 minutes. Some of that conversation, I'm going to pass on to these guys as soon as we head into the locker room because it is a mindset and there's a certain way that winners think on and off the court.”

As much as Odom has helped out in the locker room -- giving players books to read like his former coach Phil Jackson once did -- the Clippers didn’t trade Mo Williams to get a good locker room guy. They need him to be a productive part of the team to be successful, and it seems Odom has turned a corner this month.

Over the last two games, Odom is averaging 6.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 19.5 minutes. Not surprisingly, the Clippers have won both games.

“I just want Lamar to stay the course right now,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “He’s in here early working out. He’s in here late working out. You can see his timing coming back a little bit. You can see his lift coming back a little bit. He took a couple big charges for us last night. He had some offensive rebounds, a couple of layups and spaced the court for us a little bit, all the things I know he’s capable of doing. He’s here every day grinding it out. He knows he has a ways to go, but you can tell when he’s out there he makes a difference for us and it’s only going to get better.”

The biggest issue for Odom is getting comfortable with his role on the team and being comfortable taking shots when they’re open. Through the first month of the season Odom hardly looked at the basket when he touched the ball. He looked to pass it almost as soon as the ball came to him, only attempting about three shots a game. Odom has nearly doubled that total in his last two games.

“Lamar is coming along,” Clippers center DeAndre Jordan said. “He’s getting a feel for it and he’s getting to be more aggressive offensively which we want him to be and not just looking to pass because he can score. Once he gets everything right and gets more confident out there he’s going to be a big part of our second unit.”

Del Negro and the Clippers have continued to support Odom despite his slow start and have maintained that he will once again regain his old form even though many in Dallas will continue to shake their heads, knowing how last season played out. Odom and the Clippers contend this season will be different and his performance so far this month could prove to be a turning point.

“If I didn’t believe it, I wouldn’t say it. The team feels the same way,” Del Negro said. “He brings good energy and good experience. The team went over some things defensively and he spoke up and talked to the young bigs a little bit and all those things are invaluable. He’s coming around. We’ve just got to stay patient and know where he’s at and keep him engaged and let him do the work ... it’s going to be a continued process and we have a lot of faith in him and he’s going to pay dividends down the road.”