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They like Odom on rebound

Times Staff Writer

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- It sounded like a sensible concept at the time, moving Lamar Odom to small forward when he returned from off-season shoulder surgery, the better to save wear and tear on his upper body by avoiding a season’s worth of banging against power forwards.

It didn’t last.

Odom probably will play the rest of the season at power forward, with Luke Walton or Trevor Ariza starting at small forward.

Odom has been stronger on the boards in recent weeks, averaging 11.6 rebounds a game since Dec. 18.

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“He rebounds really well for us,” Coach Phil Jackson said. “When he was at [small forward], he wasn’t rebounding as well. We miss that part of his game when he’s out on the perimeter and not back in rebounding with the big guys.”

Overall, Odom has played better after a sluggish start.

He averaged 12.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists in November, but improved to 15.4 points, 10.6 rebounds and three assists a game in December. In two games this month, he is averaging 11.5 points, 14 rebounds and 4.5 assists.

“Rebounding is something that I focus on,” said Odom, who seemed a little more enthralled by the six assists he had in the Lakers’ 117-101 victory Tuesday over Memphis.

“That’s when I know I’m playing basketball, when I start passing the ball well. I haven’t been passing well all season.”

Odom also had 10 points and 15 rebounds against the Grizzlies.

The Grizzlies held an “Elvis Night” in conjunction with Tuesday’s game on what would have been Elvis Presley’s 73rd birthday.

Jackson, who will talk about almost anything -- politics, music, world history -- was asked if he had any thoughts about Presley before the game. He did, of course.

“Elvis Presley grew up as a Pentecostal kid, and my dad wrote him a letter -- he was a minister, a Pentecostal minister -- asking him for a donation of $10,000 to his church,” Jackson said. “He didn’t respond to it. That’s the only connection I have remotely to Elvis.”

Sasha Vujacic made a brief appearance after sitting out two games because of back spasms and a sprained left ankle.

TONIGHT

at New Orleans, 5 PST, Channel 9

Site -- New Orleans Arena.

Radio -- 570, 1330.

Records -- Lakers 22-11, Hornets 23-11.

Record vs. Hornets -- 0-1.

Update -- The Hornets have won eight of their last nine games and established themselves as early Western Conference contenders with consecutive road victories over Golden State and Phoenix. Forward David West might play tonight after sitting out the Hornets’ 118-113 victory over Phoenix because of a bruised left hip.

--

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com


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