Odom embraces new teammate Barnes
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"He's a teammate now," Odom said while in Las Vegas for USA Basketball training camp on Saturday. "That was an on-the-court issue and he has a Lakers jersey on now, so it will be no big thing."
A war of words erupted between Odom and Barnes after the Lakers lost in Orlando 96-94 on March 7, a game where Barnes repeatedly got tangled up with Kobe Bryant, throwing elbows, picking up a technical foul and faking a pass aimed at Bryant's face during an inbounds play.
Odom called Barnes a "monkey" in the postgame locker room and continued to say, "[Barnes] was an action figure today. He was really involved and really into the game. It's too bad we are not going to see him again [in the regular season]."
Barnes responded on his Twitter account, writing, "Morning yall up early w/ the babies watchn Dora. Seems Lamar can't keep my name out his mouth maby I need 2 put my sons [expletive] diaper n it [sic]."
The back-and-forth didn't stop there, with Odom vowing after the Lakers' next game, a close win against the middling Toronto Raptors, "That [expletive] that Matt Barnes pulled," Odom said, "That ain't never going to happen again."
The prospect of playing next season without the services of Luke Walton, who is still experiencing lower back pain, is another reason Odom is embracing Barnes as a new back-up small forward for the team. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said on Friday that the team considers it a real possibility that it will be without Walton next year, a season after he played just 29 games because of his back injury.
"Our organization does a great job of filling guys in, but Luke, he would be missed in the locker room and on the court," Odom said. "Maybe the addition of Matt Barnes helped out a little bit."
Odom said he reached out to Walton through text messages this week to check in on him.
"Luke has to take his time," Odom said. "Like any of us in this gym right now, without our health, we really don't have too much going. So as an athlete, with Luke having a bad back, he has to take care of that first."
The 6-foot-11 veteran, preparing to enter his 11th NBA season, approved of the moves the Lakers front office has made in the offseason thus far in adding Barnes, Steve Blake and Theo Ratliff while retaining Derek Fisher and head coach Phil Jackson.
"I think those pieces are guys that can help us, guys that are willing to produce, guys that obviously have played different roles for their teams over the years, basketball players with high IQs, basketball players that don't need the ball to help you," Odom said. "Along with our core group of guys they'll definitely help us."
As Los Angeles prepares for a three-peat, a new challenger has emerged in Miami after the Heat brought Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh together while adding heady vets like Mike Miller, Juwan Howard and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
The so-called "Miami Thrice" might never have come together if Odom had bolted for South Beach last summer when Wade and Heat president Pat Riley were recruiting him as a free agent.
"They still might have had room for it [if I went to Miami]," Odom said. "But I don't really focus too much on it. Nothing against them, I love those guys and I love Pat [Riley] and all that, but I kind of really worry on what we need to do, what the Lakers need to do."
Odom, who suffered from a strained left shoulder and sore right knee during the playoffs, said he will not require surgery this summer like Laker teammates Bryant and Andrew Bynum. He hopes to play his way into basketball shape at the next USA camp in New York from Aug. 9-16 and then compete with the team in Turkey at the FIBA World Championships starting Aug. 28.
"Just rest and rehab," Odom said, before joking, "Same old same old before they take me in the back and shoot me."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.