Special thanks to Justin Page for writing this take and giving us the privilege to add it to TheLakersNation.com. Again, if you write anything Lakers related and you think that it deserves to be put on the Lakers Nation please e-mail us at articles@TheLakersNation.com.
Lamar Odom is a difference maker for the Los Angeles Lakers. Using one of Hubie Brown’s phrases; he’s a player that’s going to get you 15 points, 10 rebounds, a blocked shot or two, and he defends the painted area well. Not to mention he’s a great team basketball player.
Before I get into Odom’s inconsistent play as of late, I would like to say I’ve become a big fan of his over the past three plus season’s in which he has sported the purple and gold. He plays with a lot of heart and he loves playing in L.A; he’s stated his desire to retire a Laker on numerous occasions.
Last season he played through a torn Labrum injury that would have put many other players in this league on the shelf. And if he hadn’t returned from that injury, the Lakers probably wouldn’t have snuck into the playoffs last year. Without Odom, the Lakers are a team that would finish anywhere from 9th to 11th in the brutal Western Conference.
Odom missed the first four games of this young season, so he only has nine games under his belt, which means he isn’t in pristine game condition. So by no means am I trampling and pouncing on the panic button with Lamar Odom, as many Laker fans are doing right now, when I say that Odom’s inconsistent early season play is really cause for concern for this team. But I’m very close to pushing that panic button.
And it’s not just that he’s been inconsistent. It’s who he’s been inconsistent against; the top tiered Western Conference playoff teams. And where he’s been inconsistent at; on the road. Let’s take a look at the five most recent examples of games that fall under those two categories…
That’s simply unacceptable from our number two player who’s making $13.2 in the prime of his career at 28 years old. There are a couple of reasons that go into these numbers. For starters, he’s not being aggressive enough; he’s not looking to get in the painted area for easy baskets or to draw a foul and gain confidence via the free throw line. Offensively, those are the first two things a player in a slump should be doing.
He’s shooting a great percentage from the field this season (51.9 percent) but he’s not shooting the ball nearly enough. His 8.8 field goal attempt average needs to be at a minimum of 10 field goal attempts and more closer to 12-13. And the Lakers can do that by establishing him early and often.
Odom is one the most versatile players in the league, and he’s simply not using his length and ability to create off the dribble to his advantage. Whether Odom starts from the perimeter and creates using the dribble to get into the paint or whether he catches it down in that area doesn’t matter; it’s just important that he gets there one way or the other. He’s such a tough match up for the opposition and his presence down low will ultimately free up our scorers because it’s almost impossible not to help on him.
Odom also seems to be getting frustrated way too easily when things don’t start off good. He hangs around the three point line and relies on too many three pointers and 18-20 foot jump shots. And by the way, one three point attempt is one too many for him in my mind. He’s made 2 out of 15 this year, for a whopping 13.3 percent. And sure those numbers are down from his career, but his career average is only 31.5 percent and last year he only shot 29.7.
Overall, it’s been a decent start for Odom when you look at his season averages. But decent isn’t going to get the job done against the elite teams. We need outstanding play from our number two player if we’re going have a shot at making the playoffs and advancing, and I’m talking the way he played against Phoenix in that 4-3 series loss in 2006. Anything other than that and the Lakers are going to most likely be a seven or eight seed again and they’ll be sitting on the couch watching the second round of the playoffs in May.
Random thoughts on the Nets game: As for last night against the Nets, it was obviously a difficult game to watch if you’re a Laker fan. And I’ve said this before, the defensive effort as an entire unit has made great strides. But last night was very discouraging, and it wasn’t necessarily the effort that bothered me.
It was the defensive philosophy in the final two and a half minutes of the game. Now I completely understand applying pressure on the opposing team when they’re bringing the ball up so they don’t have the full shot clock to work with.
But why apply the tightest pressure possible on Kidd when he’s 15 feet behind the three point line? This is the best ball handler in the league were talking about: you will not take the ball away from him like that in the final two plus minutes. And the last time I checked, Kidd doesn’t shoot a high percentage from 15 feet behind the three point line.
Believe me, I love defensive pressure, but there comes a point in the game where you put your two feet on the three point line and say “you’re not getting past me, and if you do the shot is going to be contested no matter what.”
The Lakers did the complete opposite last night down the stretch. They overplayed their man, and inevitably the guard drove by them, which resulted in a help defender reaching, and the Nets going to the foul line. Come on Phil, this is your job!