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NBA finals, Lakers Celtics: Odom is as Odom does

Jun 11, 2010, 1:30 PM EDT

odom.pngLamar Odom is a perplexing player. He possesses an enviable skill set and considerable talent, but after a career’s worth of opportunities, roles, teams, and coaches, no one has quite found the magic button that would turn Odom into a superstar.

Juxtapose the ongoing Odom conundrum with Andrew Bynum, who is more of a conventional everyman star. Nothing about Bynum’s talent or physique suggests he’s a working class hero, but the way he’s battled through his knee injury during this playoff run makes him endearing to sports fans who cling to the warrior ideology. There’s nothing wrong with that, as valuing strength, perseverance, and resolve makes for sound living.

Nowhere is that perspective better encapsulated in today’s NBA sphere than in Kevin Ding’s excellent column for the OC Register:

[Odom] couldn’t be such a great team guy if he didn’t understand what it takes to win. He gets it. He just doesn’t want to have to do it, because it’s too much pressure to have great expectations and too hard for him to stay focused all the time. The sad reality for the Lakers is that Bynum’s knee might not be so
thick with yellow goo right now if Odom hadn’t been floating like a
butterfly out there and mindlessly drawing fouls – overburdening
Bynum’s knee – early in Games 1 and 2. Despite Odom improving in Game
3, Bynum still had 10 rebounds to Odom’s five.

He played slightly more of that game than Odom, too. That was enough
time pounding the parquet for Bynum to suffer what he called “two
tweaks,” leaving the knee weakened for Game 4. Bynum got a drop pass 53
seconds in, went up to dunk it and found himself strangely smaller than
Kevin Garnett, who blocked the shot cleanly. It’s not an issue of additional pain. Yes, sometimes the torn
cartilage pinches acutely between the bones, which hurts like heck, but
the muscles and tendons won’t fire properly at all when there’s so much

…[In Games 2 and 4], the fruit has hung there within the Candyman’s reach and gone
unclaimed in Lakers losses. As wasted an opportunity as it was Thursday night – no team has ever
blown a 3-1 NBA Finals lead, and the Lakers are 9-0 all time when
holding such situations in the championship round – this Lakers team’s
happy ending should still be out there.

That last note is a crucial one, and part of what makes Ding’s column so balanced. Rather than continuously call out Odom for what he’s not able to do and question why he can’t do it, he simply concedes that Odom’s full potential isn’t what the Lakers need to win. Because it’s not. They obviously need him be better, which Ding clearly acknowledges, but I think we’ve reached the point in our familiarity with Lamar that we can all move past ripping Odom for being what he’s not.

That’s where the conversation with Odom always goes sour, both in these playoffs and in any other. We tout stars like Kobe Bryant as being superhuman for their limitless drive and unconquerable will, and deride anything that falls short of a frankly ridiculous standard. What we’re really doing is criticizing Odom for being merely human; he’s one of basketball’s mortals, even if he is an athletic specimen and as versatile as they come.

Lamar should be playing better, but this is who he is. It’s who he always has been, and always will be. Ding’s headline reads “Bynum a tree, but Odom has been a shrub.” It’s fitting, even if Ding himself doesn’t run with the metaphor throughout. Bynum has been a tree, and Odom indeed a shrub, but that extends far beyond the limits of these finals. That’s who Bynum and Odom are. Lambasting Odom for being Odom is criticizing a shrub for not being a tree. It doesn’t make it any less true, but at this point, should anyone really expect the shrub to transform into a tree?

  1. Faye - Jun 12, 2010 at 8:06 PM

    He has the talent, but he does nothing with it, can’t blame it on KK-he sucked before is marriage. Lamar has has more opportunities to display his talent than most and he hasn’t taken advantage of his opportunities and maybe now that he is a reality show star that is his true calling, maybe that is where his heart is. Good Luck Lamar!!

  2. P.R. - Jun 12, 2010 at 8:11 PM

    OK…let’s get some things straight:
    1. Kobe didn’t rape anyone; it was consensual and you know it.
    2. Lamar needs to get over it and help out, but damn it, so does Artest! YES, I know he has done a lot so far, but he needs to help out even more, as does Farmar and Brown. No excuses! They know what it takes.
    3. In the long run, you know who I wish was there….Trevor Ariza…sorely missed. Good luck my Lakers; we are going to need it.

  3. Roy - Jun 12, 2010 at 8:25 PM

    You are SO right, P.R.! First, Kobe is NOT a rapist. That bitch raked him over the coals and only shuted-up when she got her hush-money. (A whore is a whore!) Second, this series would probably be over on Sunday if your second and third points were true. Ariza is sorely missed, but I still think Artest is a great substitute. And I still think the Lakers will win this series, but they are making it A LOT harder than it should be! C’mon, Lakers! Wake up! GO LAKERS!

  4. john - Jun 12, 2010 at 9:18 PM

    Odom is lazy. The Lakers need him to step up, he said it should be a team effort. I know it is a team game. if he steps up everybody will be better because the Celtics can not double/triple team effectively.

  5. Khloe K-O - Jun 14, 2010 at 10:42 AM

    Hello All: I am here to admit that yes indeed I am a fat ugly attention whore. I married Lamar so that I could seek more attention because that is what attention whores have to do, especially when they are fat and ugly like myself. I am sorry for being fat and ugly, but at least I am fat and ugly on the inside as well as the outside.
    As far as the attention whore thing goes….it is what I am. (Oh, AND fat and ugly.)

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