Lamar Odom Named NBA Sixth Man of the Year
Mike Trudell | Lakers Reporter
In his best season as a pro, Lamar Odom played all 82 games while averaging 14.4 points on 53 percent shooting with 8.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 0.74 blocks per game, starting 35 games in the absence of injured center Andrew Bynum.
During L.A.'s 17-1 burst out of the All-Star break, Odom's Sixth Man of the Year candidacy gained steadily in momentum, with coaches around the league praising the league's most impactful player coming off the pine.
"Everybody in the league that has to play against this guy knows what Lamar brings to the table," said Suns Coach Alvin Gentry. "I don't think there's anyone out there that can do that, and defend those positions and rebound the basketball and has the capability of jumping up and making a three-point shot. I don't think there's anybody out there like that."
Odom ranked in the Top 10 on the glass before his minutes came down with Bynum's emergence to finish 16th, and came in 11th in the league in field goal percentage.
"He's the best back up player in the NBA," added Wolves assistant J.B. Bickerstaff, in charge of crafting scouting reports. "You have to come up with so many things to counter him because he can be in so many different spots. Glue guys don't get enough credit as they should, but Odom's definitely appreciated by coaches around the league ... he's obviously the most versatile player coming off the bench."
Hornets Coach Monty Williams couldn't come up many NBA players in general, not just off the bench, so difficult to deal with, while Blazers assistant Bob Ociepka called the Queens native "number one" among bench players, and a "handful" for opposing coaches.
Kobe Bryant kept things a bit more simple.
"He's the Sixth Man of the Year, no question," said Bryant.
Odom almost always plays alongside one outstanding seven footer or another in Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, the latter openly campaigning for Odom's candidacy as the season wore down.
"He's a great player that could start anywhere, and I love him for what he does, what he brings to the table," said the Spaniard. "He's very unselfish, he's a guy that's willing to sacrifice for the team and I think he could put up even bigger numbers if he wanted to if he was more selfish that way, but that's not what the team needs from him. I hope he does get (it) because it's a good recognition for his work and what he brings to the table and to our team."
Gasol, Bryant and the rest of the Lakers were thus very happy to get the news on Tuesday morning that their favorite teammate (this is factual) was indeed named the 2011 Sixth Man of the Year, set to receive his honor in front of L.A.'s home crowd on Wednesday evening against New Orleans.
Obviously, Odom was a vital contributor not just to L.A.'s consecutive titles, but also to Team USA's gold medal performance at the 2010 World Championships, honors which mean more to him than individual awards. But Odom, despite 11 accomplished NBA seasons, had never received an individual award, and was disappointed not to be among the 2010-11 All-Star selections.
It makes the Sixth Man award taste all the more sweet for Odom, particular as he never envisioned himself coming off the bench in the first place, but eventually convinced himself that it was best for the team.
Two titles later and in pursuit of a third, it's clear that he was right.