There aren’t many bigger Lamar Odom fans than me.
Over his 7 year tenure with the Lakers he had his ups and downs to be sure. Fans – including me – wondered if his head was always in the game. We wondered if he could ever fulfill his amazing potential. We wondered why he seemingly disappeared in some games only to impact the next one with his all court game as only a handful of other players can.
I could literally write a thousand words on the virtues of Odom’s skill set. How his malleable game made it so any contributions that were needed could be delivered. How on one possession he was sweeping the boards like a dominant big man and only seconds later he’d be leading the fast break like a guard, high stepping before making a pass that only players with elite vision and feel could make. How he’d defend the post on one play and then switch out to guard the wing on another. How on any given possession he’d find the creases in the D like a slasher, shoot the ball from the wing like a sniper, or post up like big man. How he could initiate offense or be the ball handler or the screen man with equal effectiveness in the P&R. Lamar Odom could do it all and often did. Even when he didn’t it was usually to blend into his team; to give what he thought was needed. Some nights that meant doing less. It’s the part of his game that some people despised, but the part I learned to love.
Not to mention he was a leader. He held the locker-room together like a true glue guy. He organized team dinners and brought in his personal chef during training camp. He took on a bench role only to be shifted back to the starting line up and then back to the bench based off need, with nary a peep. When Fisher andKobeplayed good cop/bad cop, it was Odom that was the big brother with an open ear and the right words to say to keep everyone loose. AsKobesaid, Odom “knows how to bring everyone together”. For all the talk of this being Kobe’s team or all the clips of Fisher motivating the larger group in the huddle, Odom’s leadership was just as vital even if it was not so front and center.
And now he’s gone. Shipped off to the rival Mavs for a first round pick and the ensuing salary cap space and trade exception.
I’m going to miss Lamar. He was my guy. My southpaw with the versatility of an all time great and the demeanor of a player that just wanted to fit in and help the team. He was not a superstar player, but his value to the Lakers was that of one. I was sad when the news broke he was traded. I’m sad now.
The reason Odom is gone will never truly be known.
Was it a salary dump? The Lakers have long been one of the highest payroll teams in the league and have been above their (rumored) salary ceiling of $100 million for a couple of seasons. With revenue sharing ramping up and the Lakers looking to contribute hefty sums of cash back to the NBA, was now the time to cut back on spending?
Will the Lakers use the trade exception to acquire another player (or players) of need to help balance out the roster and fill in the existing holes? Even with Odom and his versatile skill set in the mix, the Lakers possessed an unbalanced roster with a real need for another big man and help at shooting guard to back upKobe. Could LA use the trade exception to help fill some of those needs?
Was it because he requested a trade after being distraught over being included in the proposed Paul deal? When discussing his amnesty from the Knicks, Chauncey Billups had an interesting quote about leaders having the ability to be as disruptive a force as a settling one should they choose to be. Were the Lakers concerned about Odom not bringing his normal unifying nature after the latest attempt to trade him? Could Odom, in his current state of unhappiness do more harm on the locker-room than good?
Again, we’ll likely never know.
What we do know is that the Lakers, today, are a weaker team than they were before this trade. They’ve given up one-third of their vaunted front court trio for a future draft pick. Besides all the qualities I expressed above about Odom’s game that the Lakers will miss, on a more simplistic front they’ll miss his ability to soak up minutes with above average play. Forget the dazzling plays and all the ways he could awe us, he was also dependable. We knew what to expect from him. Even if he wasn’t producing the stats, advanced metrics show he helps win games.
He’ll now be doing that for another team.
Maybe another move is on deck. Maybe the Lakers use his trade exception for a point guard or another big man or to absorb salary in a block buster trade. Maybe they use his salary savings to justify a future acquisition that will mean the Lakers fork out even more payroll in the seasons to come. With a revamped tax and harsher penalties only a few seasons away, the Lakers should not be criticized for using foresight in this area.
Whatever the next move, though, we have few answers to the many questions swirling in our heads. Odom was a Laker. A valuable one. He’ll be missed. Severely. And while it may all be part of the bigger plan, that’s hard to deal with today. At least for me.