Fans Make Lamar Odom Their Preseason Whipping Boy

Lakers fans in Fresno -- and there were a lot of them -- did get to see Kobe Bryant in action, they did get to see Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum on the court at the same time, and they did get to see Phil Jackson. Plus, they got to see NBA basketball in Fresno. They haven't had that there since Jerry Tarkanian tried to buy a championship ran the Fresno State program.

They also got to see flashes of potential in a sea of ugly play. From both teams. In the end, the Clippers were more adept at getting out and running with newly acquired Baron Davis than the Lakers were at operating in their offense, which currently resembles a rhombus. Final result, Clippers 107-80.

But if you talk to Lakers fans on Friday, it's almost as if they didn't notice some of the nifty high-low offense Gasol and Bynum ran at points, or the hustle of Trevor Ariza. What they talk about was this:

Sixteen minutes, 0 points, 1 assist, 3 turnovers.

That was Lamar Odom's line for the night. He floated aimlessly around the game, both as the initiator of the offense and at the traditional forward spot. It was his second off preseason games in as many outings, and since those are the only two outings to base anything on this season, Odom is fast taking over the mantle of "fan whipping boy" on message boards and call in shows.

And there certainly should be questions. He's being asked to play initiator, point/forward role that he flopped in last year (before the All Star Break he averaged 13 points on 48% shooting mainly on the wing, after the break, back at power forward, he averaged 16 points on 59% shooting). Everyone but Odom seems to see what a force he could be as the first man off the bench, picking up the pace with Farmar and the second unit.

But Lakers fans -- relax. Back away from the trade machine. Two preseason games mean less than what Lindsay Lohan thinks about the presidential race. Nothing. Phil Jackson's teams always take time to find their lineup rotations, their comfort zone, how to play together. That is especially true this year as the triangle tries to accommodate two 7-footers (even if one has shown a sweet 15-foot jumper from the four spot so far that will make things easier). Plus, remember how well the blended, moving-off-the-ball Odom was during last year's playoffs. That Odom is still around, somewhere.

Jackson is the master of getting players to figure out for themselves that what the coach wants them to do is best. And he may well want Odom as a sixth man, but the only way to get Odom himself to accept that role is to allow him flounder for a while in the role Odom thinks he wants most. It takes time to come to those realizations.

If this same discussion is going on as we all do our last-minute Christmas shopping, then worry is more appropriate. Until then, don't sweat the small stuff -- like Odom's point total. Let the team gel and the Zen master work.

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