After seeing the team doctor back in Los Angeles, Lamar Odom is expected to be out a minimum of four weeks with a moderately sprained MCL in his right knee. That would sideline Odom for at least 13 games and have him returning sometime in the second week of January. That was consistent with the best-case scenario coach Phil Jackson offered last night.
The Lakers have the experience of playing without Kobe Bryant this season, which should serve them well playing without Odom. One problem is that Bryant is going to have to shoulder the load and Jackson is going to be hard-pressed to limit his superstar guard to the 38 to 40 minutes a game he hoped.
Bryant played all but 39 seconds in the first half Tuesday against Houston. Jackson had hoped to sit him the final 6:56 but the bench couldn’t hang onto a 20-plus-point lead. The Lakers rarely inspire confidence when they play without either Bryant or Odom on the floor. Jackson always tries to have one of the two in whatever lineup he plays.
It will also be interesting to see to whom Jackson turns to replace Odom. He could start either Brian Cook or Vladimir Radmanovic on Dirk Nowitzki tonight. Another option would be starting Maurice Evans and having Luke Walton match up on Nowitzki in a small lineup. It’s not ideal to play Walton as a power forward but Evans brings a combination of scoring and defense that would serve the starting five well.
When the season started, I said there was no way Bryant and Odom would play 80 games again. That the Lakers had both their stars stay healthy was one of the most remarkable things about last season. Bryant already has missed three games coming back from knee surgery and spraining his ankle. Odom’s out for 13 games at least. These are the injuries the Lakers were able to avoid last season.
The sprained knee probably ends Odom’s hopes of being selected to the All-Star team, which is recognition he’s wanted since coming to the Lakers in the Shaquille O’Neal trade. I think the Lakers and Odom both would be happy right now if he made it back in time for that monster eight-game road trip beginning at the end of January.