Lamar Odom joined the Lakers in 2004, and sitting here in 2009 he is still the most perplexing individual on this roster.
Why do I say that? Well we still can’t put a finger on Lamar. A player that some people call a walking mismatch, others call him Lamar O-dumb.
You love him then you hate him, you want to trade him but when the rumors get thick you cringe at the thought.
Regardless, you got to have deep respect for a man that has given his all to this organization. Playing with a torn labrum in the 2007 Playoffs, coming back strong mentally after the devastating and tragic death of his infant son, and a guy that has said multiple times that he wants to retire a Laker.
One of Odom’s biggest fans is hall of fame coach Pat Riley, who gave him a second chance with the Heat, after the Clippers said Lamar had, “issues of character, and other risks involved.” Riley signed him to a 63 million dollar contract, and called him “one of the most unique players that he has ever seen.”
Not a bad statement from a man that had coached players such as James Worthy, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and of course Magic Johnson.
Speaking of Magic Johnson, Riley then said this about Odom.
“He is the only player to come into this league, who had the ability to play like Earvin (Magic) Johnson.”
A player that was once known for his Marijuana habit, was now being compared to the best point guard in NBA history.
Lamar revived his career in Miami, on the court he averaged 17.1 points, and 9.7 rebounds a game. But what was most important was what he did off the court. He said, “For the first time in my life I felt like a grown man, How I think. How I act. My relationships with people were changing and evolving.”
Lamar finally got the big picture. It wasn’t about the lavish lifestyle, partying, and doing whatever you wanted to do. It was about being a professional and taking your profession seriously.
Lamar was then tied to one of the most controversial and covered trades in recent time when the Lakers shipped out the “most dominant center in NBA history” Shaquille O’Neal to Miami in exchange for Brian Grant, Caron Butler, and of course Lamar Odom.
He was now a Laker and now instead of being compared to Magic Johnson, he was now the Scottie Pippen, to Kobe’s Michael Jordan.
As we all know that never worked out. But when Pau Gasol came to town last February, Lamar said, “Were like a rock and roll group” and that he wouldn’t mind being the third option on this team.
Andrew Bynum then came back from injury this year, and a lot of people were now saying Lamar is the 4th option.
In this years training camp, Phil Jackson decided that Lamar would be better suited off the bench. Becoming that Manu Ginobli sixth man type, and be the first option of the second unit.
However with the superb play of Trevor Ariza, and Jordan Farmar, people can argue Lamar may be the 6th or 7th best player on this team.
Sound kind of weird? Here is a question if the Lakers could only keep Ariza or Lamar who would you pick? How about Jordan Farmar or Lamar?
Kind of tricky, fans may be on both sides, but the fact is, Lamar is no longer asked to be the Scottie, or compared to Magic. He is just a talented piece to the Lakers championship puzzle.
At 29 years old, Lamar has gave us a body of work that we can judge him on. He is a unbelievably gifted athlete who has the ability any given night to score 35, or grab 20 boards, or dish out 18 assists. He also can produce a stat line of zero points, one board, and one assist in 20 minutes of play.
All that being said, Lamar will be an important piece in this years championship run. I also see a few games during the playoffs where he has a coming out party, and helps lift this team to the promise land.
Inconsistent may be a great word when describing Lamar. But he has made great strides in his life, and made a lot of sacrifices in order to compete for the city of Los Angeles.
You may not get Lamar Odom, you may think he failed at being all he can be. But I’ll tell you on thing, you got to respect the man.
Here’s to Lamar Joseph Odom in helping us get that ring that we all know is ours, because we all know one thing you can’t question an NBA champion.