Watching Odom

Kurt —  December 30, 2008

Around Smashbox Studios - MBFW - Day 3

The game against the Warriors was a pretty good example of the Lamar Odom conundrum. On one hand, in his 21 minutes Odom had just 6 points and 3 rebounds and was did not seem to stamp his imprint on the game. Then again, at the end of the day he was +22, the best on the Lakers. He leads the Lakers this season in +/-, good things happen when he is on the floor.

So, for fun I re-watched the game and just tracked Odom, watching him on both ends of the court. What I came away thinking is that the +/- numbers are no accident. Here are a few observations:

• He understands the offense very well and spaces out well, then comes crashing to the boards when needed.

He often is set up on the weak side of the triangle, and against the Warriors (as in many games) there was not a lot of ball movement to the weakside to take advantage of Odom and the spacing. (To be fair, against the Warriors that was in part because the Lakers got pretty much whatever shot they wanted on the strong side, that was not a defensive tour d’ force by Golden State.)

I think when the ball sticks, or when Kobe goes Kobe, Odom can be one of the guys who gets hurt the most in terms of touches. But sometimes he finds gaps.

For example, the last possession of the third quarter for the Lakers, the team is running and Ariza tries to feed Bynum for a fast break dunk, but it gets stripped and the ball is loose. Not shockingly Ariza outhustles everyone for the board, but while all this is going on Odom quietly slipped all alone to the corner, Ariza gets him the ball, Odom sets his feet and drains the three.

Then on the first possession of the fourth quarter, Sasha does his best Curley Neal imitation, but Odom finds a space in a gap and gets the ball on a pass, goes up and is fouled in the act. He does that a lot, he just doesn’t always get the pass.

• When he’s not getting touches in the flow of the offense, every once in a while he creates one for himself, and he can be a little predictable doing that.

Here’s an example. There are 40 seconds to going the third quarter, Odom hasn’t gotten a lot of touches and the Lakers need a fairly quick shot for a two-for-one. Odom brings the ball up court after an outlet, gets to the top of the key and decides its his turn, He starts a drive to the basket from the three point arc (with his man way off him), going left of course. It’s pretty easy to see it coming, and Turiaf has seen that plenty. He and smacks Odom’s shot back out to half court.

But Odom adjusted to what happened. And I think we overlook that aspect of him sometimes.

As an example, early in the fourth Odom brings the ball up court after a rebound and gets a little half-hearted drag screen from Gasol, fairly deep, but Odom uses it to attack the rim early in the possession. When the Turiaf comes again looking for a block Odom feeds back to Gasol who closes easily. He makes a similar play a couple possessions later, feeding Gasol when the defense collapsed.

• Odom really plays solid defense. Just a couple of examples.

At the 3:10 mark of the first quarter, his man, Brandan Wright goes isolation, with a spin move into the lane and shoots, but Odom’s length really disturbs the shot that misses. Biedrins outworks Gasol for the offensive board and Golden State starts again. This time Stephen Jackson blows by Kobe and Odom rotates to help, so Jackson dishes to Wright who is going in for the lay-up. Odom recovers and blocks the shot but gets some arm in the process.

1:10 mark of the First Quarter. Odom is part of a soft full quarter pressure, but just after half court he and Ariza trap the Warrior ball handler. That’s a lot of length in a trap, and the result is a pass that goes out of bounds for a turnover.

At 8:01 in the second. CJ Watson blows by Fish in the isolation and Odom comes over to help in the paint, while his man Write slides out for the 12-foot baseline jumper and Watson gets him the ball. Odom is quick and recovers and his closeout helps cause a miss.

At 6:25 in the second, due to rotations, Odom ends up on Beidrens. He does a good job staying in front of him and forces a miss from three feet.

Next trip down the court, Ariza is on Jackson and funnels the driving Jackson to the strong side help, in Odom. And Odom strips him for a steal and brings the ball up himself.

There is a lot of this throughout the game.

• With Farmar out, Odom is doing more ball handling with the second unit.

• A couple of Odom’s rebounds came because he simply outworked Turiaf for the ball. Not a lot of people outwork Turiaf for anything.