Lamar Odom making strides, rewarding Clippers faith in him

Lamar Odom’s statistics were modest again Saturday for the Clippers. He scored a season-high eight points on 4-for-8 shooting, grabbed eight rebounds and added three assists in 20 minutes, 36 seconds during a 117-99 victory over the Phoenix Suns.

To be sure, the versatile 6-foot-10 forward has had better and more productive games during his career. But not this season, not after he arrived at training camp out of shape, not after he sat out almost three weeks in October because of sore knees.

Slowly but certainly, Odom has worked himself into shape and rewarded the Clippers’ faith in him and his potential. He’s shed 12 pounds and recently displayed a vague resemblance to the player who was named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year while with the Lakers in 2010-11.

Odom has plenty of work still to do, including dropping additional pounds, before he can claim to be as fit as he should be at this point in the season. When he does, when he gets in better shape, the Clippers hope he’ll be as productive as he can be for them.

“It takes time,” Odom said. “I had so much time off. Sometimes, as an athlete, you slow down. It’s important for me to keep after it in practice, get extra work in so I’m comfortable on the court, comfortable on defense and making moves and coming out of them. It just takes time.”

After a season in which his mind and body seemed to be elsewhere after the Lakers traded him to the Dallas Mavericks, Odom insisted from Day 1 of training camp with the Clippers that his head was in the right place. He vowed to return to the form that made him the league’s best bench player.

“My body is starting and my mind are starting to attach, so that feels good,” he said. “My body and my mind, they have to be together. My body is starting to catch up to my head.”

Others have noticed his physical improvement.

“He wants it and I believe in him,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “I’m going to keep pushing him. I’m going to keep making him work and he’s going to keep doing work. His teammates support him because we know that he gives us an element we need.”

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