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There’s a rough side to Odom return

The left-hander with the shaved head and the purple leggings was back for the Lakers Friday night. When Lamar Odom is rebounding and scoring like he can, he is their Big O, even though he will never be The Big O.

Of course, the way the Lakers played in their 106-97 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats, the team with the fourth-worst record in the NBA, Oscar Robertson himself might not have been enough.

It was an ideal night for the 6-foot-10 Odom to return. Home game. The 14-27 Bobcats in town. Ease right back in. Win this one in a sleep-walk.

Wrong. The return was a nightmare. Not only did the Lakers lose in overtime and look lousy doing so, but Odom may have put himself in jeopardy of missing some more time.

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In the second period, he got into a quick altercation with Charlotte’s Gerald Wallace and, quicker than most in attendance could see, threw the kind of elbow that the NBA usually takes a long look at.

It at least will give Stu Jackson, the league’s assistant principal in charge of doling out lost recess privileges and detention hall, something to ponder on film, if he so chooses.

The fact that Odom and Wallace came out after a timeout and exchanged conciliatory pats on the rear may help ease the situation, which created little more than a small stir of boos in the stands.

“I was just playing it straight up,” Odom said. “I didn’t throw an elbow. I don’t play dirty.”

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In the overtime, Odom started off the Lakers’ offense by losing the ball on an offensive foul, then tried a 12-footer on the right side that went in and out.

The best thing that can be said for this return of Odom, as well as the Lakers, was that they get to play again at Staples on Sunday against the much-better San Antonio Spurs.

Before the game, Odom said that, among the things he missed in the 21 games he sat out with a knee injury was the camaraderie. Luke Walton took care of that quickly an hour before the game, walking past as Odom met the media and asking with feigned surprise: “You playing tonight?”

In a twist, Walton hurt his ankle in the game and now it may be he who is on the receiving end of that question in the next few games.

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All night, the Bobcats made the Lakers look like, well, the Bobcats.

Part of that was Odom’s struggling.

At the half, he had eight points on three-for-eight shooting, but also four turnovers, only two assists and only two rebounds.

Remember, this was the 6-foot-10 player who led the Lakers in assists 45 times and rebounding 51 times last season.

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Before the game, Odom had called his comeback business as usual.

“This is riding a bike,” he said. “Sure, you might fall off, but you get right back on.

In the first half, as the Bobcats ran off to a double-digit lead, Odom’s bike seemed to need a bit more air in the tires, or a slight adjustment of the handlebars.

The altercation with Wallace seemed to get Odom’s adrenaline flowing, and soon he was making a steal and a slam dunk, followed quickly by a three-pointer from Kobe Bryant that finally got the Lakers back in the game at 46-46. Charlotte led at the half, 51-49.

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The second half appeared to be an awakening for the Lakers, but they could never shake the Bobcats, who remind nobody of the reincarnation of the Bill Russell Celtics. Or, for that matter, the Benoit Benjamin Clippers. Odom, who finished with 12 points and seven rebounds -- well below his season averages -- said that he had spent a lot of his six-week downtime watching TV.

“I especially watched the teams in the Western Conference, because they are so tough. Coaches watch lots of film, and players can too.

He said he watched with particular interest whenever the Phoenix Suns played.

“We had them 3-1 last season and lost,” he said. “You look for something, that one thing, that might have gotten you through that last game.”

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After Friday night, playoff talk, while inevitable, seemed a little silly for Odom and the Lakers.

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Bill Dwyre can be reached at bill.dwyre@latimes.com. For previous columns, go to latimes.com/dwyre.


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