Lakers’ Lamar Odom leads from the bench


Lamar Odom wasn’t entirely thrilled when he found out he was no longer a starter last year in training camp, saying Lakers Coach Phil Jackson was “out of his . . . mind” for making him come off the bench.

Times change, people mature and championships get won.

Now it’s Odom who approached Jackson about returning to the second unit, seemingly eager to go back to reserve status after 11 games as a starter during Pau Gasol’s absence.

“He came to me about a week and a half ago and said, ‘You know that bench really needs me on the floor with them,’ ” Jackson said Thursday. “He actually volunteered that information.”

Jackson seemed surprised. Maybe even stunned. He knew how angry Odom was last year with the demotion.

But when Gasol returned Thursday from a strained hamstring, Odom went back to sixth-man duties.

“I think it was cool,” Odom said. “I think we did a lot better at using each other [Thursday] and running our offense and executing. For us to be the team that we’re capable of being, we need stable play from our bench. I think we did a much better job at that.”

Odom averaged 9.9 points, 8.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists in 35.2 minutes as a starter. He had 11 points, eight rebounds and two assists in almost 26 minutes against the Chicago Bulls.

The second unit needs the boost after some suspect efforts this season. Against the Bulls, the Lakers’ reserves were outscored, 33-25.

Odom’s playmaking and scoring ability should energize a mostly ineffective unit that would have been that much more short-handed without Luke Walton for at least six weeks because of a pinched nerve in his back.

Just the same, Odom will be ready in case he ever has to return to the starting lineup.

“Who knows, of course, what could happen,” said Odom, who needed six stitches over his right eye after getting elbowed during the game. “We were in Memphis and we got to see Andrew [Bynum] go down, right? Guys get sick and so on and so on. I’m staying prepared, just doing my job, whatever needs to be done.”