CLIPPERS INTRODUCE ODOM
Eric Patten | 7/2/12


Photo: Varon Panganiban
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  • It's official; the Lamar Odom No. 7 Clippers jersey is no longer a throwback.

    The lanky forward, wearing a gray suit, white shirt, and red tie with blue stripes, was re-introduced as a member of the Clippers Monday during a press conference at the team's Playa Vista training center.

    Odom, who was flanked at the dais by Head Coach Vinny Del Negro, President Andy Roeser, and Director of Player Personnel Gary Sacks, grinned and said it felt like "deja vu, all over again" as he was sitting in front of the Los Angeles media.

    "It feels great to be back in L.A. It feels great to be back in a Clipper uniform," Odom said in his opening statement. "I feel like I'm 19, hopefully I can turn back the clock on the court as well."

    Odom was originally selected fourth overall by the Clippers in the 1999 Draft and spent four years with the organization after his debut as a 19-year-old rookie. He's accumulated a number of accolades since, including two NBA titles, an Olympic bronze medal, a gold medal in the 2010 FIBA World Championships, and a Sixth Man of the Year award in 2010-11.

    "I felt he was committed and wanted to be back in a Clipper uniform and that's what I wanted to see," Del Negro said. "We want players here that are committed to the process, committed to the organization and the fan base."

    Still, a number of questions surrounded the 13-year veteran following career-low numbers with the Dallas Mavericks last season. He averaged just 6.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 35.2% shooting in 20.5 minutes per game with the defending champions.

    On Monday, Odom said he's putting the past behind him. "I'm just looking forward to coming out and helping the team win games, to do whatever it takes to win basketball games and erase that last season I had. I wasn't myself."

    He later added: "I feel better. I've had some time to try and get past some things. I'm looking forward to getting back on the court and playing at a high level. For a long time, the court has been like my sanctuary and for a minute there it wasn't and as an athlete sometimes you have to be honest with yourself and where you're at mentally and physically.

    Sometimes when you're having a tough time mentally, it even affects [you] physically."

    More from Del Negro and Sacks about bringing Lamar Odom back to Los Angeles.
    Del Negro: "[Handling the ball is] what he's good at, take it off the glass and push the break. He can get us some easy ones and control tempo with him in the post a little bit. We'll work through all those things. The main thing is to get him comfortable, get him in shape, and get him engaged. The exciting thing is he wants to be here and believes in what we're doing and how we're doing it. And that's a big step in the right direction."

    Sacks: "One thing that strikes me about Lamar is what a great teammate he is. He's a guy who makes everyone else better on the court. And that's something you hear from everybody he's ever played with and that's something that's going to help us a lot on the court and off the court."

    The Clippers front office contingent of Roeser, Sacks, and Del Negro said they spoke with Odom to evaluate how he would fit in with a team that advanced to the second round of the playoffs last season and is looking to go further in 2012-13.

    "I've known Lamar his entire career. I think we signed that first contract together back in 1999," Roeser said. "We wanted to know if he wanted to be a part of it [the organization] and why. We're very satisfied that his reasons are the right reasons. He's here to help us win and that's all he cares about."

    On the court, Odom, who is a uniquely skilled 6-foot-10 forward, could pay major dividends for the Clippers if he can regain his form from two years ago when he put up 14.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and shot a career-high 53% from the field and 38.2% from three-point range for the Lakers.

    "His versatility gives you a lot of different options, offensively, defensively," Del Negro said. "He can space the court a little bit. We can post him up. He can play off the elbow. He makes plays. He's unselfish. He gives us some more length. We've just got to finish out the rest of the roster and obviously put him areas to be successful." On several occasions throughout the media session Monday, which lasted approximately 45 minutes, Odom mentioned Clippers stars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. He called them both competitors and said he told them to embrace how hard winning can be.

    "I've spoken to Chris and Blake and they're both excited and I've let them know that I appreciate that," Odom said. "Those guys set the tone last year with what they accomplished.

    "The first thing I think about when I join this team is okay, good, now I don't have to play against Blake Griffin. The same thing for Chris because they compete and when you compete at a level like that and you have those two, you're in every game you play."

    In addition to an already budding relationship with Paul and Griffin, Odom also has ties to small forward Caron Butler.

    "We became brothers in 2004, when we played in Miami together and he missed some of the year because of injury," Odom said of Butler, who was his teammate with the Heat in 2004 and the Lakers in 2005. "We get along, of course, because of what we've been through, but mostly because of our off the court similarities and having it rough. He's someone that is dear to me and I can't wait to get out here with him and represent the town."

    As for representing the Clippers for the second time in his career, Odom seems prepared for the challenge. "Personally, there feels like there's some unfinished business as a Clipper," he said. "I've got to watch from afar, watch them build what many consider now a program and build tradition. It started here with the practice facility and coach and keeping players such as Blake and Chris and starting from the ground up. They've just done things the right way."

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