More: Odom Returns
Lamar Odom, one of the most recognized athletes in the league, was getting an opportunity to reinvigorate his career where it started more than a decade ago and reaction swung wildly.
There were those who believed Mo Williams, the feisty guard who led the Clippers in scoring off the bench in 2011-12, should have stayed in L.A. or that Odom was not worth the risk after a woebegone season in Dallas. Others said it was a bold way for the Clippers to open up minutes for emerging guard Eric Bledsoe and improve the frontcourt. Odom and Williams were both trending topics on Twitter.
Of course, they were the principles in Friday's complicated four-team deal that brought the 6-foot-10 forward back to Los Angeles, where he was the fourth overall selection in the 1999 Draft, and sent Williams back to the Jazz, the team that drafted him in the second round in 2003.
For the Clippers, it was a matter of swapping a Sixth Man of the Year candidate for a player who captured the award two seasons ago as a versatile member of the Lakers frontcourt. According to 82games.com, Odom was on the court in each of the best 20 five-man units for the Lakers in 2010-11, meaning Odom playing alongside All-Stars Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum was theoretically better than any combination of players that included the Lakers' so-called "twin towers."
It was arguably his best all-around season statistically, but more importantly he seemed to shed the label of inconsistency that plagued him at various stages since he entered the league as a 20 year old out of Rhode Island. A year later, though, playing in Dallas, Odom was a shell of himself. He averaged 6.6 points and 4.2 rebounds in 50 regular season games, sometimes playing in excess of 30 minutes without tallying a rebound or making a field goal.
The Clippers are banking on Odom's redemption. The native New Yorker is back in his adopted home of Los Angeles, where he has an offseason residence and spent 11 years of his 13-year NBA career. Can he return to form? Time will tell, but if so, it could go a long way in replacing Williams' scoring production and bolstering a frontcourt that had limited offensive ability off the bench last season and outside of Blake Griffin, was bereft of inside scoring.
Despite boasting two of the top three dunkers in the league (Griffin and DeAndre Jordan), the Clippers finished 22nd in points in the paint, averaging 38.7 per game. Their primary highlights may have been at the rim, but overall they were much more of a jump-shooting team last season with Williams, Randy Foye, Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, and Nick Young. Sliding Odom into the sixth man role balances that dynamic. In 2010-11, 45.7% of Odom's points came in the restricted area, a spot on the floor where he went 279-for-408 (68%). He's not an adept shooter from the perimeter, but is a more skilled threat outside of 15 feet than Kenyon Martin and Reggie Evans. In his final five years with the Lakers, Odom shot 40.5% from 16-23 feet and in 2010-11 he knocked down a career-high 38.9% of his threes.
But Odom is not being brought in to simply score the ball. On Friday, Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro talked about the "new dimension" Odom can to the lineup. Effectively, Odom can play three positions, is an adroit ball-handler, defends and rebounds. He may not be the athletic dynamo that he was in his first go-round with the Clippers, but he also remains one of the most unique threats in the game. He could play with superstar point guard Chris Paul and allow Paul to roam off the ball at times, conserving greater energy for his late game magic act. And the thought of Odom surveying a defense, the ball in the center of the court, in semi-transition with Griffin or Jordan running alongside him is exhilarating.
It's not just the possibility of what Odom could bring to the lineup that makes the trade less risky. It's the two championships, the gold medal, and his apparent desire to be in L.A. The trade may have polarizing to fans or the media, but for the Clippers it's seemingly a muted risk that could pay tremendous dividends.
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