Lamar Odom

Lamar Odom caught the ball on the right wing Saturday and without hesitation spun it in his left hand and fired away from 3-point range.

The shot went in, just like five other jumpers by Odom did in the Clippers’ 107-94 win over the Utah Jazz, but it was not about makes or misses. With Odom this season it never has been.

“All season long we’ve been yelling at him to shoot and now he’s starting to shoot it,” point guard Chris Paul said. “Then at the end of the day you have to have the confidence in yourself. We came out of a timeout and drew up a play for him. I’m always one of the guys telling him to shoot it, you know [he’s] always open.”

Odom went 8-for-15 Saturday, scoring a season-high 18 points with a pair of 3-pointers. It was the most points the veteran forward has scored in more than 14 months and another sign that the work he’s put in through the first 58 games of the season is beginning to pay off.

“I’m starting to get my legs underneath me,” Odom said. “I’m just trying to stay at it, just work hard. I’m trying to fit in and do whatever I can do to help the team win tonight. It was a good night offensively, but the main thing is just to keep at it, keep working hard, and just keep trying to get better.”

The 33-year-old Odom has lost 25-30 pounds since the beginning of training camp and looks as agile as he has in years. But despite averaging more than seven rebounds per game in December and January, Odom was still finding his way offensively. Prior to Saturday, Odom had made three or more field goals in just seven games since New Year’s Day and was shooting below 42% for the second time in his career.

Odom attributed some of his shooting woes to the change in body type.

“You go through a process where your mechanics change when you’re not in playing shape,” Odom said. “And when you get back, you’ve got to kind of get your mechanics back. Your flow, your rhythm, how you play and how you move. So, it takes some time and it’s humbling. The game is humbling.”

The Clippers have relied on Odom as a savvy defender, rebounder, ball-handler and first big man off the bench behind starters Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. But it has also been a waiting game as far as Odom’s shot coming around. Head Coach Vinny Del Negro, though, has been steadfast in his support because he is keenly aware of what Odom’s ability to stretch a defense could mean for the Clippers come playoff time.

“I think he gives us a whole other dimension out there when he starts making those shots,” Del Negro said. “It spaces the floor for us. Everyone knows Lamar knows how to play, but we needed his production there [Saturday]. It was good he got into a little bit of flow. He had good shots and he shot them with confidence and hopefully we can build on that.”

The confidence, arguably, was exactly what Del Negro and Odom’s teammates have wanted to see. Minutes after Odom knocked down his first 3-pointer, he found space in front of the Clippers bench and knocked down another one, again, shooting without hesitation. The entire bench was on their feet, arms raised as the ball left Odom's hand. When it went through the net, they yelled encouragement to Odom on the court. It was as though the former Sixth Man of the Year was emerging in front of them. 

“That’s the kind of scoring I remember from Lamar back when he was with the Lakers on the championship team and got the Sixth Man of the Year award,” said Griffin, who stands to benefit from more room to work around the rim if Odom can build on Saturday night’s effort. “He’s so tough to guard because he’s so versatile. The thing about him is that he handles the ball and he really wants to pass, so a lot of time in games we’ll be in the game and tell him to shoot or look at the rim. [Saturday] was just a good thing.”