Archives For lamar odom

We do this weird thing in sports, where as a player is on their way out, we enjoy poking fun at the aging process right up until they’re gone. Once retirement comes along, then we wax poetic on our fondest memories from throughout their career. We’re seeing it with Kobe Bryant in a basketball sense. A more devastating example, however, has been our treatment of Lamar Odom.

At the time of my writing this (just after 1:00 AM PDT), Odom is still fighting for his life in a Las Vegas hospital. Based on reports surrounding him, there’s no guarantee he’ll make it through the night. Man, I hope those reports are exaggerations.

Continue Reading…

There are people in various corners of the NBA map trying to help the man right now. We’re talking former teammates and coaches and a clutch of confidants who don’t want their names out there because they’re not looking for attention for their efforts. All they want to see is Lamar Joseph Odom dislodge himself at last from one of the scariest downward spirals to engulf an NBA player in the 21st century.

(via Marc Stein: Odom Roller Coaster in a down cycle)

For the most part, I try to keep these pages about basketball and what happens on the court. It’s the spirit this site was founded on and, over time, I’ve enjoyed keeping the discourse focused on what we see on the court and finding inspiration in those things to fuel the discussion between the writers and those who read, comment, and are a part of this community.

That said, sometimes things off the court have a way of taking hold of your attention and not letting go. Sometimes that’s a good thing…other times, not as much.

I don’t know what’s going on with Lamar Odom. The rumors are ugly. The reports based in fact aren’t much better. Whatever is going on with him, though, has me concerned. And I’m not the only one:

That’s quite a list of supporters. A legendary player, a former coach (and legend in his own right), a teammate, an announcer, and a reporter. All expressing concern, all just wanting the best for Odom. Not as a player, but as a man.

I join that group.

This isn’t about basketball. At least not really.

The reason why many of us care is because basketball has provided a vehicle for us to appreciate Odom. I can’t claim to be as close to Odom as those people referenced above, but I can claim to be captured and affected by Odom in a way that transcends what he did on that 94′ by 50′ piece of hardwood.

Odom’s is a story of perseverance and redemption. The fact that basketball was the backdrop for this story simply allowed many more people to be part of his journey.

A common theme of his life has been seeing others around him die. His mother. His Grandmother. An infant. A cousin. A man struck by a car he was a passenger in. This list is likely even longer.

Another theme is how, early in his career (and even later, if we’re being honest), he was seen as a player who was squandering his talent. But Odom turned around his career. First in Miami and then with the Lakers. His success on the court then became a symbol of his strength as a man, of how one can endure and conquer the demons that find a nesting place in people who have seen more tragedy than what can be deemed their fair share.

Today it seems Odom is back to losing that battle with those demons. This saddens me in ways I didn’t think I could be by a person who I have no real connection to besides what he did on a basketball court or said in media scrums in front of a locker.

I could probably go on and on about what Odom meant to me as a player or how much his presence on those Lakers’ teams mattered. But, to be honest, that is of little consequence right now. I simply want my favorite lefty to rediscover some peace in his life. Even if, based off his history, it will probably be only fleeting.

The Laker Way

Emile Avanessian —  August 21, 2012

I stand corrected. It appears the “new Laker fandom” will bear a striking resemblance to that which preceded it.

Ever since Andrew Bynum schooled J.J. Barea on the nuances of Newtonian physics in the spring of 2011, it was apparent that the Lakers — as then constituted — required a facelift. As that spring gave way to summer, and summer to lockout, lockout to, well, more lockout, and ultimately to the most frantic NBA silly season ever, the Lakers looked to have gone full Jerry Jones, swapping championship lynchpins Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom for the best possible solution to their long running point guard dilemma, Chris Paul. Upon learning from David Stern that their health insurance policy did not cover cosmetic overhauls of this magnitude — let’s see if this analogy has legs, huh? — the Lakers were forced to pull a page from the playbook of many a courtside patron and “just get a little work done.”

No sooner had he “returned” from New Orleans than a dejected Odom was rerouted to the defending champion Mavericks, in exchange for a draft pick that reimbursed the Lakers for the legislated theft of Chris Paul — a pick that might just have materialized in time to select Little CP — and an $8.9 million handful of magic beans. Hold this thought.

Almost (if not) universally panned at the time, the saga seemed an ugly manifestation of the new Jimmy Buss era. Ascribed to a desire to jettison an emotional landmine, presumably of equal importance was the resulting cut in payroll. Between the new CBA and Short Buss/Gob/[insert pet name of your choosing], the Lakers were (yeah, I’m irrational and entitled. whatever) falling back to the NBA pack.

In the months that followed, they went back under the knife, turning Luke Walton and a first round pick into the point guard upgrade Laker Nation pined for, and then sending talismanic on-court liability Derek Fisher to Houston, in exchange for Jordan Hill. Ramon Sessions immediately cleared the shin-high hurdle of expectation (inspiring more than a few $e$$ion$ tweets along the way), averaging 12.7 points and 6.2 assists per game and posting a True Shooting Percentage of 57% (thanks to 48.6% from beyond the arc), while Hill showed flashes of becoming a badly needed frontcourt spark plug.

In the aforementioned pair of trades, the Lakers claimed no better than one draw and one defeat. There is a case to be made that the two trades did nothing more than cost the Lakers an ever-so-scarce first rounder (seriously, are we sure Mitch Kupchak didn’t once cut a shady deal with Joe Smith?) to rent a lead guard whose performance waned with time — though not so much that he opted against opting out of his contract — and a lotto-bust-turned-glue-guy that might have priced himself out of their budget with seven 6 and 6’s.

Fair enough.

That said, however, there is also a case to be made that the value of addressing your most glaring weakness — with a possible long-term solution (didn’t happen, but still) — while simultaneously inspiring goodwill among fans likely trumps the yield of a mid-20s draft pick. Hell, keeping Jordan Hill probably accomplishes that on its own.

Sure, the acquisition of this generation’s original #PointGod is a rising tide that lifts many a personnel decision, but that itself is merely a product of a longtime philosophy — one built on an ideal combination of patience and decisiveness, with zero parts fear. For more than three decades Mitch Kupchak (and Jerry West before him) and Jimmy (and for the three decades prior, Jerry) Buss have continually taken to the tightrope — if not in pursuit of improving the roster, then forcibly, at the hands of a disgruntled star (be it Magic in 1982, Shaq in 2003-04, Kobe in 2007 or Odom last winter) — and continually resisted the temptation of simple self-preservation (y’know, the type that seeks the comfort of “winning every trade” en route to building Replacement Player Voltron) in the interest of delivering true difference makers.

It is understanding, in the summer of 2004, that the differences between Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant could no longer be worked around, and trading Shaq — perhaps a year or two early — in favor of the next decade of a purported franchise killer. It is, 11 months later with the Lakers clearly in decline and the remainder of Kobe’s prime hanging in the balance, selecting high schooler Andrew Bynum (while I begged for Danny Granger). Though Bynum was a project, his is twice- (perhaps three times) in-a-decade potential. It’s unlikely that in June 2005 the Lakers’ brass knew much more than we did regarding the path Bynum’s career would take, but they understood that should he realize even (arbitrarily) 60% of his potential, his value, on the floor and as an asset, would likely exceed that of an athletic wing, even one as talented as Granger. And given Bynum’s roles in both hanging another pair of banners in the rafters and the acquisition of the greatest center since Shaquille O’Neal, clearly they were correct.

In the weeks that followed, the second-best member of the 2004-05 Lakers and a future All-Star, Caron Butler – who is also a Kobe favorite and (in possibly related news) the rare member of the first post-Shaq Laker squad not openly starstruck in Bean’s presence – was shipped to the nation’s capital, in exchange for MJ-protégé-turned-ham-handed-cake-vandal Kwame Brown. In all likelihood the downgrade was not lost on Kupchak – though it must be said that Kwame Brown, a 22 year-old big man four years removed from being a #1 overall pick, presented an interesting value proposition — though neither was the realization that building the Western Conference’s version of the Gilbert Arenas-led Wizards offered little long term value.

Meanwhile, with Bynum developing at a pace one would expect from an 18 year-old big man, Kobe, fearing the remainder of his prime would be frittered away in NBA purgatory, (inadvertently) publicly lobbied for the front office to cut ties with Bynum, in favor of Jason Kidd. Upon the front office’s refusal to oblige his request, Kobe shifted his focus and, in the summer of 2007, demanded that he himself be traded, preferably to the Chicago Bulls, preferably in exchange for a less-than-optimal package. In this, the most terrifying time to be a Laker fan since November 1991, Kupchak stayed his course, recognizing that he was under no obligation to act in haste, and refused to become footnoted as the man that traded two of the top dozen players in the game’s history.

Banking on Kobe’s dedication to his craft (and his legacy) winning out, the Lakers tipped off the 2007-08 with their frustrated superstar in tow. And then a funny thing happened…

While Kobe brooded and plotted his exit from L.A. (though he still balled), a rare underdog Laker squad, behind double-double averages from Odom and Bynum (who was lost for the season after just 35 games) and 20.8 points and 5.6 assists in 48 combined minutes per game from Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmar, unexpectedly returned to the top of the Western Conference. Winners of 19 of their first 29 and 27 of their first 40, the Lakers were rewarding Kupchak’s steadfastness in not parting company with a transcendent talent. The extent to which they were true contenders was debatable, but the greenness of the grass elsewhere could no longer be a given for Kobe.

Having not only traded a future All-Star to acquire Kwame Brown, but also having given him a three-year/$24-million contract to stick around, the Lakers looked to be a bit of a bind with their bust-y big man. That winter, as he did again this summer, Mitch turned the tables on that pair of increasingly fruitless personnel decisions. As tends to be the case with the habitually successful, good fortune smiled upon the Lakers — in the form of a stalled counterparty desperate to cut costs and salvage value for a big money star. On February 1, 2008, in one of the great redemptive trades in recent history, Kupchak parlayed Kwame (along with Marc Gasol, who unexpectedly blossomed into a top-shelf center) into one of the world’s most unique, talented and uniquely talented big men, Pau Gasol.

The rest you are probably familiar with. Having significantly upgraded the frontcourt without creating new holes elsewhere (sound familiar?), the Lakers won 27 of their final 36 in the regular season, locked up the West’s top seed and coasted through the playoffs, dropping just three games en route to the Finals.

A lackluster Finals performance and a pair of postseason disappointments gave rise (and longevity) to more undeserved criticism than any team-first top-15 talent that’s helped anchor a pair of title teams should ever have to endure. In addition, they sparked endless speculation regarding Gasol’s future with the franchise. In the face of mounting pressure and dwindling rationality, thanks in large part to Pau’s incredible maturity and professionalism, rather than selling low on an all-world talent, Kupchak held tight. (Note: yes, in December 2011 he did in fact trade Pau, but in doing so he was procuring the services of Chris freaking Paul)


Crucified at the time (yeah, I did it too) for gifting Odom, a valued contributor to the defending champions, and again at the trade deadline for seemingly foregoing the opportunity to salvage value in exchange, Kupchak again conducted a clinic in opportunism. With the Lakers sliding further down the Western Conference totem pole, in classic Laker front office fashion, he masterfully capitalized on one of the assets at his disposal. Using the flexibility afforded by the $8.9 million trade exception, Kupchak facilitated the Phoenix Suns’ transition into transition, landed one of the great point guards of this generation and one of the best shooters of all time — Steve Nash.


On a different front, trade winds continued to swirl around Andrew Bynum. Ever since the Jason Kidd chatter of years past, he had been rumored… let’s just say that any rumor not involving Gasol (and even one that did) was constructed around ‘Drew.

As he had with Kobe and Gasol, Kupchak (probably with some input from Jimmy) took a measured approach, valuing Bynum (rightfully) as elite asset and refusing to swap a super-skilled 7-foot, 285-pound, 24 year-old (how is he still so young??) for whatever shiny object du jour happened to be dangled before him. Additionally, when it seemed the Dwight Howard saga (putting it mildly) might conclude with the Lakers stranded in the cold, Kupchak held his ground, refusing to package Bynum and Gasol in exchange for Howard, as Orlando was demanding. And in the end, with a Joe Johnson trade here and Brook Lopez max-out there, the urgency Orlando had attempted to instill in the Lakers not only subsided, but reversed field.

In thinking about the recent chain of events in Lakerland, I am reminded of a decade and a half ago. A once-in-a-lifetime big man and (though we didn’t know it at the time) wing within the Lakers’ grasp, then-GM (and Kupchak’s mentor and hoops Jedi) Jerry West, having resisted the urge to trade away Vlade Divac — around whom (if memory serves) rumors had swirled (as much as they could back then) — the season prior, parted ways with his starting center only when payoff was the payroll flexibility required to secure a transcendent big man like Shaquille O’Neal… and an 18 year-old Kobe Bryant.

Hate the Lakers for past success. Hate them for their inexhaustible resources. Hate them for residing in a top-tier market with perfect weather. Understand, however, that more than any of these, what’s set them apart is the ability to maintain composure when the stakes are highest. West understood in ’96 what Mitch Kupchak has since mastered. The skill lies not in knowing precisely who will come available and when, but in the knowledge that someone will hit the market, and that the flexibility to deal and willingness to pounce without fear are the ultimate difference makers.

Welcome to the Rumor Mill, a place to talk about all the rumors, innuendo, and speculation about potential Lakers moves as we approach the trade deadline. In this space we’ll offer up links to reports, opinions on the speculation of the day, and anything else trade related that crosses our minds. This may or may not be a daily feature at FB&G, but we hope it can serve as a place to capture the craziness. As an aside, this feature will only run through the trade deadline this season. So, get comfortable but don’t unpack all your bags yet. ‘Cause just like the circus the trade deadline represents, this post will be on its way to the next town in a couple of weeks.

That on any given night (or afternoon) the 2011-12 Lakers are capable of overcoming even the stiffest competition is simultaneously thrilling and disconcerting.

Despite the occasional foray into disarray and the occasionally terrifying deficiency of on-court firepower, the Lakers carry on, not only trudging forward, but excelling. Given its composition –top-heavy, veteran-laden and deliberate with possession – this squad is clearly one built for postseason ball, where the significance of front-line size is magnified, and that of roster depth diminished.

However, the Lakers, winners of 23 of 37 games this season, including an almost-league-best (along with Miami, OKC and Memphis; Chicago is 9-1) eight of their last ten, find themselves a half game ahead of their Staples Center roomies in the Pacific (and for third in the West), two games behind the second place Spurs. They have won 17 of 19 at home, 16 of 23 against some rock-solid Western Conference opposition and, at 5-3 (the Clippers are 3-3) boast the Pacific’s best division record. Not bad for a team with little more than a passing interest in this regular season.

As impressive as it has been, we (well, management) must resist the urge to allow the Lakers’ success thus far in 2011-12 to mask a rather urgent need for reinforcements. Whether or not you feel a franchise-altering blockbuster is necessary – and if so, whether said blockbuster would entail bidding adieu to Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol –there is one deal to be made that will bolster this Lakers team, either in the form of an upgrade at the point or quality depth elsewhere (anywhere) on the roster.

As you are no doubt aware by now, in parting ways with Lamar Odom just days before the season tipped off, and received precious little in exchange, the Lakers acquired a traded player exception (TPE). In short a TPE resembles a “deferred multi-team trade,” allowing a team that is over the salary cap (as the Lakers are) to acquire like-priced talent at a future date (TPE’s often expire after a year) for a player dealt today. In the Lakers’ case, this TPE allows for the absorption of up to $9 million (Odom’s $8.9 million salary, plus $100,000, per CBA rules) worth of salary, with minimal loss of on-court productivity. Perhaps even more than the aforementioned blockbuster that would put pen to paper on the next chapter of the Lakers’ superstar legacy, this exception will play a vital role in determining whether these Lakers are able to realize their championship aspirations.

A few ideas regarding possible directions in which the Purple and Gold could go:

Ramon Sessions ($4.2M this season, $4.5M player option for 2012-13) for a 1st round pick

Sessions has been, and continues to be, one of the most logical cost-effective fixes available for Lakers’ most glaring weakness. He is not Chris Paul or Deron Williams, but Sessions is a young (26 in April), productive (15.4 points, 7.5 assists and just 3 turnovers per 36 minutes) NBA-caliber point guard that will solidify the already-dangerous Lakers’ status as a contender in the West.

One potential concern is that he will cost the Lakers some assets, and has the ability to void his deal this summer and will cost more to re-sign. Given the win-now mode in which the Lakers are firmly entrenched, this is more than a worthwhile risk. Plus, is Sessions arrives and plays well enough to gain any serious leverage in contract negotiations, chances are it’s been a pretty solid spring in Lakerland.

Francisco Garcia in exchange for a pair of 2nd round picks, with Sacramento taking on Luke Walton

Maybe not the first name that comes to mind, but ‘Cisco Garcia is a quality NBA veteran that can fill multiple roles for this team. He is a combo guard, but with a point guard lean, does not dominate the ball (20+ USG just once in six years) and historically has shown a nice touch from the outside (just 31% on 3-points this season, but at least 35.6% each of the past five, including 39%+ three times). In addition to easing the Lakers’ pain at the point, however, Garcia (who is 6’7”) would provided depth on the wing, either two spelling Kobe at the two or playing alongside him in three-guard/wing (with Matt Barnes, MWP, Goudelock or Blake) units.

Most importantly, this is a deal that makes sense financially as well. Garcia’s contract pays him $5.6 million this year, $6.1 million next season and has a $6.4 million team option for 2013-14. For the rebuilding Kings the acquisition of Luke Walton (who is making $5.6M this year and $6.1M next) is a cap neutral way to nab a pair of second-rounders without breaking a sweat.

Jason Thompson in exchange for a 2nd round pick (maybe a 1st rounder at gunpoint)

An interesting deadline sleeper. Depending on your perspective (I really like him) Thompson is potentially a fourth starter or excellent bench contributor going forward. Thompson has turned in a solid effort in relief of (and more recently starting alongside) DeMarcus Cousins, scoring in double figures 15 times, grabbing 8+ rebounds 14 times and posting six double-doubles despite seeing the floor for just 24 minutes per game.

Additionally, he is a restricted free agent this summer (qualifying offer is $4.1M, though he’ll likely command more), and with Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins in line to get PAID in the summers of 2013 and 2014, $12M+ per year committed to Marcus Thornton and Chuck Hayes for the next four years and another lottery pick on the way, it’s unlikely that Sacramento will be committed to signing him long term.

Amir Johnson in exchange for a 2nd round pick (maybe just simple salary absorption)

Is Amir Johnson the difference between the Lakers and the Larry O’Brien trophy? Probably not. What he is, however, is a young (25 on May 1), athletic big that is productive (10-10), will hit the offensive boards (11.9 ORB Rate) and has range to (generously) 15 feet – in other words, quality depth.

Plus, the fact that he is signed to a lengthy, iffy-but-manageable ($6M, $6.5M, $7M next years) contract with a lotto-bound team set to welcome a pair of top-ten picks (2011’s #5 overall Jonas Valanciunas, plus an addition from the 2012 class) to next year’s squad will suppress the cost of acquiring him.

Paul Millsap in exchange for a 1st round pick

This is the dream scenario.

With Utah quickly fading from playoff contention, the development of the last two #3 overall picks will become a priority, as will showcasing Al Jefferson (owed a prorated portion of $14 million this year and $15 million next season) for (hopefully, if you are a Jazz fan) a future cap clearing deal.

From the Lakers’ perspective, Millsap is an ideal fit – an efficient offensive threat (22.62 APER on just 22.9 USG, per Hoopdata) and solid rebounder (22.2/11.4 ORB/DRB Rates) that is still fairly young, having just turned 27, and has the capacity to play All-Star caliber ball for prolonged stretches. What’s more, Millsap (owed the remainder of $6.7M this season, and $7.2M in 2012-13) is an ideal complement to the Lakers’ current front line, able to step outside (43.2% from 10-23’) when Bynum is in the paint and capable of banging down low (72.4% FG on 4.5 FGA at the rim) when Pau is operating on the wing.

Ok, guys, let’s fire up the mill! Who knows what coming days will bring for the Lakers, but these are my thoughts on possible ways to strengthen the team going forward. Looking forward to your feedback on these ideas, as well as any that you’ve been kicking around.

At what point does a person’s income preclude him from complaining about some of life’s breaks? Is there a line of demarcation? $10 million per year? A million? $500,000? $100,000? At what point does compensation beget dehumanization?

Though I share neither their income bracket nor VIP status, I have a tendency to empathize with athletes and celebrities. Despite the immense financial rewards and public adulation bestowed upon them, in many ways they are, in fact, “just like us.”

I’m talking not about occasional trip to Starbucks or fashion and dining choices that fit within even the strictest of budgets, but preferences, comfort zones, insecurities and emotional vulnerability. A person that has successfully refined and focused a specific skill set in such a manner that it is valued, in a free market, at several million dollars annually, does not cease to be a person.

Somewhere along the line, we as a society came to equate fame and considerable financial means with the complete absence of hardship and dissatisfaction with one’s existence. You don’t need to be just scraping by to love the city in which you live, genuinely enjoy your family, hate your boss or experience heart-shattering pain. Make no mistake, a life free of financial shackles is very often preferable to one that is not, but – and I strongly doubt that you need me to explain this to you – money doesn’t equate to happiness, it simply provides the security required to pursue it on one’s own terms. I lay this before you not because I think the rich and famous are in need of a crusader (though I imagine that would pay pretty well), but because over the past few days we have seen a number of NBAers, men of considerable means all, have their professional (and by extension, personal) lives dramatically altered by forces beyond their control. And regardless of income, they have every right to be unhappy about it – none more than Lamar Odom.

We’ll begin Thursday evening when, as you might have heard, executives from the Lakers, Hornets and Rockets agreed on the terms of trade that would land Chris Paul in L.A., deposit Lakers All-Star Pau Gasol in Houston and send draft picks, the Rockets’ 1-2 punch of Kevin Martin and Luis Scola to NOLA, along with Odom, the NBA’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year. As you also might have heard, for (basketball) reasons that continue to defy explanation, the increasingly dictatorial David Stern shot down the agreed-upon swap, along with a second iteration submitted by the teams, before the Lakers officially withdrew from talks on Saturday.

In light of the nixed deal(s), there was little doubt that awkwardness would abound at Lakers camp. While an admittedly unhappy Gasol arrived on Saturday at the team’s facility in El Segundo on time and said all the right things, Odom, as deeply emotional (do not confuse this with “demonstrative”) a player as there is in the NBA, was nowhere to be found. He arrived early that afternoon but stayed only long enough to complete a physical and chat briefly (read “request a trade”) with GM Mitch Kupchak, who quickly obliged, sending Odom to the defending champion Dallas Mavericks, in exchange for a $8.9 trade exception (presumably to be used in attempt to acquire Dwight Howard) and a first-round draft pick that may or may not be utilized before the next lockout.

Surely aware that the Lakers’ attempt to trade him stemmed not from displeasure with him personality or on-court performance, Lamar’s reaction is exactly the type that sparks populist drum circles, with accompanying demands throughout the media that he “suck it up” and appreciate that playing a “kid’s game” will earn him roughly $9 million this year.

Blah. Blah. Blah.

Plagued by inconsistency and immaturity early in his career, in seven years as a Laker, Odom evolved as a player, grew as a man and found love (say what you will about the show, but over two years and nary a problematic blip). Never a selfish player, Odom emerged as a calming veteran influence on three Finalists and a pair of championship teams, doing whatever was asked of him in the name of victory. His Swiss Army knife skill set created matchup nightmares all over the floor. When called upon, he ran the point. In a pinch, he logged minutes in the middle. Despite having more raw talent than all but a few players in NBA history, in 2008, for the good of the team, Odom agreed, without complaint, to come off of the bench.

On-court sacrifice not really moving you? No worries…

If there is any player of whom “not about the money” rings most true, Odom, a favorite of both teammates and fans and by all accounts the epitome of a gentle soul, is that player. The lone non-Kobe constant of the post-Shaq Lakers, not only did Odom sacrifice on the floor, he left eight figures on the table (anyone doubt that his last contract, 4 years, $36 million, could have topped $50 million?) as a free agent because he loves living in Southern California. If all of that – legitimately checking his ego at the door and foregoing millions to play where he wanted – is somehow still not enough, credit him for the perspective he’s gained, more appropriately, had forced upon him, by having to overcome more heartbreak and sorrow in 32 years than most of us will endure in a lifetime.

He lost his mother to colon cancer at age 12. At age 24, the beloved grandmother that raised him also succumbed to cancer. Three years later, to the day, Lamar lost a child, six-month old Jayden, to SIDS. His father, a heroin addict and absentee for much of his life, has reemerged, hand out. Last summer, while in New York to attend his cousin’s funeral, Lamar was a passenger in a car that struck a motorcycle, leading to the death of a nearby pedestrian.

You really wanna call this guy a me-first prima donna?

Best of luck, Lamar. You are already missed. You’ll always have a place in Lakerland.

#NBARank: Lamar Odom

J.M. Poulard —  October 6, 2011

With #NBARank now in the midst of announcing the top 50 players in the NBA, Laker fans have probably noticed that some of their favorite players have yet to show up on the board. It stands to reason that the purple and gold will be very well represented in the top 50 given the amount of talented athletes on the roster.  And true enough, Lamar Odom was announced today as the 44th best player in the NBA according to #NBARank.

Some might feel that the left-handed power forward should be rated higher whereas others might argue that he should have been rated lower, but his rating seems to be just about perfect.

Odom averaged 14.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game on 53 percent field goal shooting last season predominantly coming off the bench (started 35 games). The numbers mind you, do not capture the scope of his contributions for the Lakers.

At 6’10, L.O. has the rare ability to rebound in traffic and take off with the ball to lead the fast break and feed a teammate for a score or simply take it all the way for a coast-to-coast finish. In addition, much like a young Rasheed Wallace, the former Rhode Island player can play just about every frontcourt position depending on match ups and create havoc for the opposition given his capability to score from just about every spot on the floor.

Lamar can spot up from beyond the arc to drill shots (he shot 38.2 percent from downtown last season but is a 32.1 percent career 3-point shooter), score on the block, drive passed most big men given his superior quickness and also convert midrange jump shots.

Consequently, Odom gives the Lakers flexibility that most teams can only dream of: they can play ultra-big with Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum or if they want to outrun their opponents, they can trot out a smaller and quicker line up with Steve Blake, Shannon Brown, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol; or simply even have Artest play power forward and Odom play center with the three-guard look.

The Lakers sixth man offers versatility on the court reminiscent of Hall of Fame player Scottie Pippen.

Granted, he is not the scorer or playmaker that Pippen was nor is he in the same class as the former Bulls star on defense; however Odom’s size and quickness allow for him to be able to play different types of players and give them fits. On a typical night, the artist formally known as Ron Artest would draw the job of guarding the best perimeter player on the opposing team, however should he get into foul trouble, Odom has the tools to be able to guard the likes of Andre Iguodala, LeBron James and Danny Granger to name a few. In the event that his services are not required out on the perimeter, he will instead focus his efforts on players such as Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki when playing alongside Gasol.

Needless to say, Odom is a very skilled player that gives the Lakers a lot of variety in the amount of looks they can throw at teams. But one of his biggest contributions on the team may very well be his acceptance of his role. Indeed, his basketball gifts could easily have made him a greedy player seeking the adulation of the public; and thus he could have been a player that chases shots. Instead, he is more than content with getting his limited scoring opportunities, doing the dirty work on the boards and occasionally creating easy looks at the basket for the likes of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.

In truth, Lamar Odom may be one of the most underappreciated players in the NBA today when we look at what he brings to the table across the board. He was an integral part to the Lakers back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010 thanks in large part to his production as well as his durability and yet he was a much better player during the 2010-11 regular season after his stint with the U.S. team during the World Championships last summer.

Being ranked the 44th best player in the league should come as no surprise for those who follow the Lakers but it is nonetheless a sign that others have noticed that Lamar Odom is one of the best rotation players in the league.

From the limited exposure we’ve had to Mike Brown via press conferences and sit down interviews, we’ve learned a few things about what he plans to do with the current Laker roster on the offensive side of the ball. He will implore the team to play a bit faster by having his guys push the ball up court and initiate the offense quicker. He wants to get Kobe the ball “in his spots” in order to maximize his effectiveness. He plans to utilize some of the offensive sets from his days as a Spurs assistant coach to take advantage of his twin towers of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. And while all of this sounds great – after all, these are the key players to the Lakers’ offensive attack – one name we haven’t heard come out of Mike Brown’s mouth very often is Lamar Odom.

But make no mistake, Lamar Odom will need to be involved for the Lakers to truly excel on offense.

In the past 4 seasons Odom has been a key contributor on offense, using his well rounded game to both be a complimentary player and a primary option in the Lakers’ offensive sets. Phil Jackson used Odom’s versatility expertly by having him initiate the triangle offense, run pick and rolls as both a ball handler and a finisher, play off the ball as a slasher, post up smaller players, isolate slower defenders, push the ball as a middle man on the break, and space the floor in lineups where Kobe and either Gasol or Bynum worked the post. Odom’s ability to do all of these things effectively gave him immense value and created a variety of mismatches whenever he was on the court.

However, as the Lakers transition away from the Triangle and into a more traditional offense it’s fair to ask how Odom will fit into this new scheme. Some open questions:

  • Will Odom still have a lot of ball handling responsibilities?
  • Will Odom still initiate the offense?
  • Will Odom work more as a post player ala Gasol and Bynum or more as a perimeter power forward?
  • Will Odom have the freedom to still push the ball in transition or will he be bottled into the more traditional role of a big man?

As of today, we don’t have answers to these questions but I can only hope that we can say “yes” to all of the above. Odom’s versatility is his biggest asset on this team and putting him in positions to explore his full skill set is the best way to maximize his value. Mike Brown has spoken extensively about trying to get the most out of his players, but doing that with Odom may be his most difficult job as an X’s and O’s practitioner next year.

Understand that Odom was the Lakers best pick and roll player last year when you combine the ability to initiate and finish in the set. His ability to create off the dribble for himself or his teammates is second to only Kobe and his instincts on when to pass and when to shoot probably surpass #24’s. Odom works effectively in space with and without the ball and getting him moving into the free space to take advantage of the attention Kobe/Gasol/Bynum draw is one of the best ways to create high percentage shots without having to run an actual play. Not to mention he’s one of the team’s best offensive rebounders so putting him in position to still attack the glass is also a key.

Can Mike Brown’s offense do all of these things for Odom; can his sets put Odom in positions to utilize such a wide variety of skills? The triangle naturally set Odom up to use all his natural ability by limiting the play calls and letting the players read and react to the defense. This let the players’ ability take over and put their versatility on full display. On any given possession Odom would bring the ball up and then shift from the two guard front to the to the wing; he’d set up shop at the elbow or sink into the short corner; he’d work to the middle of the paint off flashes and dive cuts, doing it all based off what the D was doing. On one side of the floor he’d be involved in a pick and roll with one of the big men, making an entry pass and then cutting to the rim looking for an easy score or setting up for the offensive rebound. On another possession he’d isolate at the top of the key in a 1-4 set or hang back behind the arc and shoot the long ball. But in Mike Brown’s O – one in which he’s stated the PG, SG, and SF are interchangeable parts as initiators and where big men are post up players and screeners – where does Odom fit in?

Will he play like a guard? Like a big man? Can he do both for Brown like he did for Phil?

Carving out a role will be key, but in an offensive system where players usually play more conventional roles it will be interesting to see how one of the more unconventional players in the league is used. As a power forward, Odom can do it all but what will his coach ask him to do? And when he asks him, will it stifle his skill set or allow it to flourish? Right now, I have my questions and concerns as to how this will actually play out. We’ll know more when the games start, but the fact is we’ll have to wait because Mike Brown isn’t offering any clues as to how the versatility of Odom will be tapped into.

While it’s not yet official, it’s being reported that Lamar Odom will be named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year later today. This is great news and I’m thrilled for Lamar being recognized for his fantastic season. His statistics speak for themselves, but even more impressive to these eyes has been his ability to shift between starter and reserve and fully embrace whatever role is thrown at him, all while playing top flight basketball for the entire season.

It’s been said many times over, but Odom really is the glue to this Laker team. He’s a leader, the bridge between the starters and the reserves, and probably the most beloved teammate in the Laker locker room. His ability to stay grounded and always do what’s best for the team shows a selflessness that is very much needed on a team where a precious few consistently get the accolades even though everyone contributes to the success of the group. His humble nature only reinforces the sacrifice that is a requirement on any team expected to contend for the championship. In a way, he’s been the most consistent Laker and could easily be described as indispensable. Not too shabby for a guy that some questioned would ever live up to his potential on this team.

And while I wish Odom could have also gotten that coveted all-star berth that’s eluded him his entire career, this award isn’t such a bad consolation. It only reaffirms his value to this team and shines a light on how consistently good he’s been this year as a key cog to the team’s success. So, again, a big congrats to my favorite lefty. He earned this award with a stellar campaign. Now, there’s only one more piece of hardware to win (and I’m sure he’d trade today’s trophy for that other one handed out in June).