Odom not upset with new role
Andrew Bynum is back in the starting lineup, which means Lamar Odom is back on the bench.
Odom logged 31 games as a starter -- it would have been 32 had he not been suspended for a game -- and saw a dramatic uptick in his statistics after Bynum went down with a knee injury Jan. 31.
But Odom’s time as a fill-in ended when Bynum started Thursday against the Denver Nuggets.
Odom wasn’t thrilled before the season about the prospect of being a reserve, saying in October that Lakers Coach Phil Jackson “must have woke up and bumped his head.”
Odom was much more agreeable with going to the bench Thursday.
“At this point in my career and in the season, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “It’s a depth thing. We’re a much deeper team with Andrew in the lineup. It was perfect timing. I look forward to getting the second unit playing at a high level again.”
The reserves could use some help from Odom after struggling for the better part of Bynum’s absence.
On one play, Odom grabbed a rebound and hit Sasha Vujacic with a length-of-the-court pass for an easy layup. He finished with seven points, nine rebounds and four assists in 35 minutes.
With Bynum sidelined, Odom averaged 13.9 points and 11.1 rebounds in 34 minutes a game. Before Bynum’s injury, Odom averaged 9.4 points and 6.2 rebounds in 26.4 minutes.
Despite an expected drop statistically, Odom, who will be an unrestricted free agent in July, didn’t mind giving way to Bynum.
“He’s going to protect the rim as one of the best shot-blockers in the league,” he said. “And we can score inside with two great seven-foot scorers.”
Jackson stays behind
Jackson did not go with the team to Portland for tonight’s game because of pain and swelling in his lower right leg caused by plantar fasciitis, a condition in which tissue becomes inflamed and irritated.
The Lakers, who have lost their last seven games in Portland, will be coached by assistant Kurt Rambis, who has filled in for Jackson for medical reasons on a couple of occasions in recent seasons. The Lakers flew to Portland on a team charter after Thursday night’s game.
“The problem is late-night flights,” Jackson said. “Just to keep things on an even keel, this is the best policy right now. That last road trip, I had a couple difficult days. I made the decision at that time to maybe take a little break [now].”
Jackson will coach Sunday’s game against Memphis and is not expected to miss any other games because there are no more back-to-back situations after tonight.
Rambis filled in for Jackson in an exhibition game last October after Jackson underwent tests for swelling and soreness in his legs.
Rambis also coached the team during training camp in 2006 while Jackson recovered from hip surgery. Rambis then guided the Lakers to a road victory at Golden State in their second game of the season while Jackson stayed back in Los Angeles.
It won’t be an easy chore tonight in Portland, though Jackson will be watching from afar.
“I’m really curious about that game,” he said.
Times staff writer Broderick Turner contributed to this report.