HONOLULU (AP) – Lamar Odom is eager to become Kobe Bryant’s sidekick with the new-look Los Angeles Lakers.

And a lot more.

Scottie Pippen, once an acclaimed sidekick himself, is lending a hand in that direction at the behest of Phil Jackson, his former coach in Chicago.

When Jackson returned to the Lakers for a second time in June, he pointed to Odom’s disappointing 2004-05 season and how much he expected from the versatile 6-foot-10 player.

Jackson coached the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls to six championships in the 1990s, with Pippen a secondary star playing a variety of roles including being the leader of Jordan’s supporting cast.

Jackson envisions Odom playing in a similar manner in support of Bryant, and that’s where Pippen is involved during the Lakers’ 10-day training camp at the University of Hawaii.

“We’re going to work on it,” Pippen said. “He wants to be good. He’s always shown signs of being very talented and able to do a lot of things on a basketball court a man of his size usually can’t do.”

Jackson said Wednesday there’s a good possibility Odom will play every position at one time or another this season, including center.

“He’ll be playing out on the perimeter a lot,” Jackson said. “How much, I don’t know. He might start there the first and third quarters and play a power position in the second and fourth quarters.”

Jackson said it all depends on the Lakers’ opposition.

“I think that’s the strength to my game,” the 25-year-old Odom said regarding his versatility.

“I’m not one-dimensional at all. I’m comfortable wherever he wants me to play on the court. I kind of pride myself being able to play any position. Anything to help us create mismatches, I’m willing to do. I always have guard in my game.”

And, as Jackson pointed out, center as well.

Jackson recalled that Pippen took to the triangle offense very well in the 1990-91 season – the Bulls’ first championship year. It really came together after the Bulls went to a two-guard front. With that, Pippen began handling the ball a lot more.

“He’s been under five systems in as many years,” Jackson said of Odom. “I expect it’s going to take some time.”

Odom played mostly power forward last season in his first year with the Lakers, and because of injuries to Bryant and himself, the two were played together in only 50 of the 82 games.

A year earlier, in his only season with the Miami Heat, Odom played power forward quite a bit. But after a horrible start, that team worked together much better than last year’s Lakers.

“My natural position is as a perimeter player being too big for a perimeter player,” Odom said.

“My footspeed is still there. And I feel like I still have the strength of a power forward. I’m looking forward to going back and playing my natural position.”

Pippen didn’t play inside as much as Odom has, but handled the ball a lot and defended well against players of several positions.

Because he handled the ball as much as he did, Pippen was known as a point forward.

“It sounds good, something like that,” Odom said of that kind of assignment for himself.

Odom is still recovering from surgery April 19 to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder – an injury that caused him to miss the final 17 games last season.

The Lakers went 2-15 during his absence to finish 34-48 and out of the playoffs for just the second time since 1976.

“We didn’t protect each other,” Odom recalled. “I actually had to go to an enforcer style, and that’s not my game.”

We were just really bad on team defense.”

Look for that to change, because Jackson-coached teams always seem to excel in that area.

“I think with coach here and focusing on (defense), everyone’s going to be protected,” Odom said.

Odom said he’s not quite 100 percent healthy yet, but he’s getting close.

He did say he hoped to play in all 82 regular-season games.

“I’m pretty sure if I can be on the court the majority of the time, if Kobe can be on the court most of the time, if we can stay healthy, we can make the postseason,” Odom said.

Bryant said he expects to mesh with Odom better this year.

“I think that’ll come as camp continues to unfold,” Bryant said. “You have to have a system, you have to have a structure, everybody falls in line. The thing about this offense is every position is interchangeable.”

So, what has Odom learned from Pippen through two days of training camp?

“Different tricks of the trade, different ways to get open, different ways to play defense, different ways to play the game,” Odom said. “He knows the triangle inside-out.”

AP-ES-10-05-05 1947EDT


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