The Captain

Lamar Odom is Clippers basketball.

With the mantle of franchise player upon his shoulders, Odom has done it all for his youthful squad. Along with his dominating statistics, he has given his teammates a reason to play hard every night and a team captain that they can rely on. Most importantly, he lets everyone know where he stands: Lamar Odom believes in the Clippers.

Odom's dedication and faith in his team was perhaps never more evident than at the June press conference welcoming Elton Brand to Los Angeles. After fielding inquiries on his Draft Day thoughts and ability to play alongside Brand, Odom made no bones about his feelings when asked about his outlook for 2001-02.

"I'm itching to start again. I want it now---there's another team in LA. We are going to battle this year, that's for sure."

Without looking up, the horde of reporters quickly jotted down Lamar's words on their many notepads. The Clippers captain continued.

"We won 15 games my rookie year, and 31 last year. I'm looking at 45 to 50 this season."

Silence. Eyebrows shot up. Pencils paused. After an exciting 2000-01 campaign, many expected the Clippers to be patting themselves on the back for doubling their win total. However, as the leader of the Clippers, Lamar Odom wanted to be sure everyone knew the team's agenda. There was still work to be done.

"We aren't going to sell ourselves short," Odom quietly finished.

If the Clippers squad ended 2000-01 with a bang, then "explosion" is the best way to describe Lamar's year. In just his second NBA season, Odom's accomplishments were among the NBA's elite:
  • Posting Clippers-best averages in points (17.2), rebounds (7.8), steals (.97) and blocked shots (1.61), he was the only player in the NBA to lead his team in all five categories.
  • Odom joined Minnesota's Kevin Garnett and Orlando's Tracy McGrady as the only players to rank in the NBA's top 40 in scoring, rebounding, assists, and blocks.
  • He set a Clippers franchise record with four triple-doubles in 2000-01. Amazingly, he recorded three of the four triple doubles in a five game stretch. Only Jason Kidd (7) and Antoine Walker (5) posted more triple-doubles last year than Odom.

    Off the stat sheet, Lamar also led his team in the locker room. Instilling a pride in his club to give 100% every night, the NBA quickly took notice of the Clippers attitude in 2000-01. "The days of beating up on the Clippers are over," declared Dallas coach Don Nelson, "They are a much improved team and very fun to watch." Thanks to Lamar's dedication----as well as the terrific job of the Clippers coaching staff---the team played as a unit, setting defensive franchise records and producing the highest scoring bench in the NBA. Commented Houston Guard Steve Francis after a tough Rockets/Clippers battle, "We knew it was going to be tough coming in here to play the Clippers because they play every game hard."

    Yet for all the accomplishments of last season, Lamar is hardly satisfied. Inspired by the play of Orlando's Tracy McGrady, Odom dedicated himself to working out this summer, citing a desire to take his game to the next level. "You have to give your two or three hours a day to basketball if you want to be the player you want to be," he explained. He also volunteered his services for the Clippers Summer Pro League squad, and has been harassing the Clippers coaching staff for gym work. "Our key is to come into the season in shape instead of waiting," Odom told reporters, "We want to be sharp all the way, so this is the time to start." Though welcomed, Clippers Assistant Coach Rex Kalamian has definitely noticed the change in his summer schedule. "I have Darius calling me and Lamar calling me telling me they're going to work out tomorrow morning and let's go," the busy Kalamian said. "Not only do they come in and play basketball, but they spend an hour in the weight room as well."

    The Clippers outlook is bright for next season, and the team hopes to put their hard work to the test each and every night. The Western Conference will provide many a dogfight, but the team welcomes the challenge. And with Odom at the helm, one can bet that they will be ready.