Los Angeles Lakers eager for production from Odom, Bynum

Boston's Glen Davis puts up a shot between Andrew Bynum, rear, and Lamar Odom, who have struggled.
Boston's Glen Davis puts up a shot between Andrew Bynum, rear, and Lamar Odom, who have struggled. (Christian Petersen/getty Images)
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By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 13, 2010

BOSTON -- The NBA Finals are tied at two games apiece, but these are uneasy times for the Los Angeles Lakers, with apprehension over Andrew Bynum's unsteady right knee outweighed by worries over Lamar Odom's unsteady play. The Lakers are a better team with a healthy Bynum dominating inside and/or if an assertive Odom is showcasing his wide-ranging skill set, but expecting either one -- or both -- when facing the Boston Celtics in the Finals has been unwise.

Bynum was absent with a fractured left kneecap two years ago, leaving Odom exposed for abuse from Kevin Garnett. And when complications from a torn meniscus in his right knee forced the 7-foot Bynum to sit for all but two minutes in the second half of Game 4 on Thursday, Odom got outplayed, surprisingly, by Glen "Big Baby" Davis.

Bynum had fluid drained from his knee late Thursday night, the second time in as many weeks that he has had the procedure done, so that he could be available for Game 5 on Sunday. But while the condition of Bynum's knee is a concern, Odom remains a conundrum.

Odom will likely see more time if Bynum proves to be ineffective or immobile, but he has been adamant that the Lakers will have to compensate "as a team. I'm not going to put it on my shoulders to win or lose the game."

The Lakers' versatile, 6-foot-10 sixth man, Odom has always possessed front-line talent but a deferential mind-set that allows him to find comfort as a third or fourth option. He can also be maddeningly inconsistent, appearing and disappearing, and has had difficulty finding his way against Boston.

Odom is averaging just 7.5 points and 5.3 rebounds, contributing around half of what he produced in the Western Conference finals, when he averaged 14.1 points and 11.8 rebounds. When asked what can be done to jump-start Odom -- a question he has received many times over the past five seasons -- Lakers Coach Phil Jackson jokingly said, "I was thinking of an electrode, you know."

Upon hearing those comments, Odom fell silent and looked around blankly for five seconds, a response that could have been interpreted as either he didn't find Jackson funny or was actually in search of a stimulus.

"I'll be all right. The best thing about the playoffs, a good or bad game, we still have a game in front of us," Odom said, adding that he understands the difference his inspired play has on the team. "A huge difference, because I bring so many different things to the table. How we play, it seems like the energy picks up. I'm going to do my part in this next game. I'm looking forward to getting out there, playing."

Odom collected 10 fouls and just eight points in the first two games, but bounced back with 12 points -- on 5-for-5 shooting -- in the Lakers' win in Game 3. He had 10 points and seven rebounds in the 96-89 loss in Game 4, but the Celtics had no fear about driving inside or pounding the offensive glass with Bynum sidelined.

"Lamar struggled two years ago in this matchup, and he has to break through kind of, that mental gap that he had from that experience," Jackson said.

Missing out on the Finals two years ago is the primary reason that Bynum is playing with his injury. He averaged 13.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.7 blocked shots in the first three games of the Finals -- including 21 points and seven blocks in Game 2 -- but had two points, three rebounds and no blocked shots in only 12 minutes in Game 4.

The 22-year-old Bynum had an MRI exam on Friday in Boston that showed no further damage than the torn cartilage he suffered six weeks ago.


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