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Odom practices, could play Friday

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Times Staff Writer

In case the Lakers were feeling they hadn’t experienced enough good fortune over the last few days, the health gods finally smiled upon them after creating all sorts of havoc last season.

Forward Lamar Odom practiced Monday and could play Friday against Minnesota. He took part in some contact drills at practice, but, as he said, won’t “rip it up” until practices later this week. He will not play tonight against New Orleans.

Odom averaged 15.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists a game last season and had been out since undergoing surgery on his left shoulder in May.

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“It felt pretty good to practice, get up and down with the guys, get blocked a couple of times, make some shots, miss some shots, grab rebounds,” Odom said. “My basketball timing’s off a little bit, but hopefully in practice I’ll get it back.”

Odom’s return means Ronny Turiaf or, more likely, Luke Walton returns to the bench.

If the Lakers want to go big, they’ll keep Turiaf at power forward and let Odom play small forward, a move that would keep Odom, who has undergone two shoulder surgeries, from banging against power forwards every game.

It would also allow Walton’s playmaking ability to benefit an already active second unit.

Odom thinks his shoulder is strong enough, although he still needs a doctor’s clearance to play Friday. Conditioning also will be a question. Odom has tried to stay in shape by undergoing personal workouts on the sideline during practice.

From the bench during games, he has seen one of the keys to the Lakers’ early-season success -- a lot of sharing.

“The ball has been moving really well,” he said. “I just want to come in and contribute any way possible.”

Odom missed 26 games last season, part of the reason the Lakers’ surprising 26-13 start went awry. Kwame Brown also missed 41 games last season, Walton missed 22 and Chris Mihm missed the entire season because of injuries.

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Kobe Bryant isn’t overly excited about the Lakers’ unexpectedly smooth start, although it speaks more to being a 12-year veteran than his unhappiness with the franchise.

He acknowledges the victories over Phoenix and Utah were noteworthy, saying they showed “a lot of will,” but, at the same time, he’ll point out the Lakers are only three games into the season.

Bryant has taken on a serious demeanor, saying he and Derek Fisher will continually remind teammates that a long season is still ahead. In other words, he’s not doing cartwheels over a 2-1 record.

“I’ve seen too many games, I’ve been in too many wars -- Fish and I both,” he said. “We understand that we’ve got to keep this team going. We keep the ice cold, let the young guys get excited. They should be excited, they’ve played extremely well.

“Myself and Fish, we keep our composure. We know it’s a long season and we have to continue to kind of crack the whip and push these guys. He can do it from his end and I can do it from my end.”

After games tonight against vastly improved New Orleans and Friday against rebuilt Minnesota, the Lakers travel to San Antonio and Houston next week.

“It doesn’t end,” Bryant said. “You’ve just got to stay the course. We’ve just got to continue to get better, especially in the Western Conference -- the hits just keep coming.”

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TONIGHT

vs. New Orleans, 7:30, FSN West

Site -- Staples Center.

Radio -- 570; 1330.

Records -- Lakers 2-1; Hornets 3-0.

Record vs. Hornets (2006-07) -- 1-2.

Update -- The Hornets have speed in point guard Chris Paul, skill down low in center Tyson Chandler and power forward David West, and shooters in Peja Stojakovic and Morris Peterson. The Hornets have defeated Sacramento, Portland and Denver by an average of 9.7 points.

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mike.bresnahan@latimes.com


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