Posted Oct 23, 2012 2:46 PM
It was just three short weeks ago when Lamar Odom was asked which Lamar Odom will take the court this season.
And it was three long, long weeks ago when Lamar Odom was asked which Lamar Odom will take the court this season.
One simple question. One answer filled with confident tones: "The Lamar that put the six- or seven- or eight-year string of good ball together. I did that," he said. "I've played well and I've played bad, but people seem to remember what happened last."
The last three weeks has thrown that reasonable, early preseason self-analysis into the blender, to the point that Odom needs people to forget what is happening right now. One of the Clippers' obvious strengths, their bench, has been weakened because of Odom. It's just as reasonable now to make the next five exhibition games a referendum on Odom's future.
If Lamar Odom doesn't get his act together this season, he may never.
This new start with the Clippers was his ideal bounce-back opportunity, after all. It wasn't a reunion with the Lakers, where he won two championships, a Sixth Man of the Year award and developed close friendships with Kobe Bryant and others. But Odom saw many positives. The Clippers are a veteran team filled with realistic title aspirations and quality people in the locker room. He's back in L.A., as he wanted.
This is also a contract year for Odom, meaning he needs to appear focused, play sharp and prove to a lot of potential summer 2013 suitors -- the Clippers most of all -- that last season in Dallas was an anomaly and that, yes, there was that much longer stretch of good ball.
Yet Odom is not in shape midway through the exhibition schedule. All of that on the line and he was being held out of games because, as the Los Angeles Times quoted coach Vinny Del Negro, "He's got to work through some conditioning things and some health things right now, which he's doing. Yeah, I wish he was in a little bit better conditioning, and he wishes he was. But he's just got to continue to work every day and I'm sure he'll get there eventually."
It is a prominent issue for the Clippers. Odom was acquired from the Mavericks to be the third big man behind Blake Griffin at power forward and DeAndre Jordan at center, with Ronny Turiaf and Ryan Hollins in the mix. But Odom appears adrift. It's exactly the image he is trying to erase.
In his final season with the Lakers, he dealt with family turmoil and a proposed trade to New Orleans that nearly happened before it was scuttled by NBA commissioner David Stern. Then the trade to Dallas happened. He played so poorly there (6.6 points and 4.2 rebounds in 20.5 minutes plus 35.2 percent from the field in 50 games) that the Mavericks finally sent him home.
"I went through a lot," Odom said. "The trades. A cousin got killed. It was tough year."
Early in this preseason, he scored 2.7 points and grabbed 4.3 rebounds in 17 minutes of play, while shooting 23.1 percent. That would ordinarily be easy to dismiss as meaningless exhibition numbers, especially on a team that can't be expected to be close to syncing several new faces and an atypical October of preseason games in China.
But not playing well on top of not being able to play a lot is a bad opening statement.
Early in camp, Odom reflected on the return to Los Angeles and to the Clippers, his NBA home his first four seasons as a pro.
"I think I'm with people that I'm familiar with. They understand where you're at or what you've gone through or what you've been through. That makes playing easy," he said. "That's the easy part. The easy part is getting out here and playing."
Except when it isn't easy.
This is all about Odom being remembered for last season, at least until he changes direction and becomes a difference-maker again. It is about new places that are a lot like old places.
This is about Odom needing to do something now with the best chance for a comeback he may ever get.
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