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Del Negro says Odom can still play, but that’s not what is important right now

Sep 3, 2013, 12:57 PM EDT

Lamar Odom Clippers Getty Images

Lamar Odom the basketball player is and should be a secondary thought right now.

It is Lamar Odom the person that has hit a deep downward spiral, one that has culminated in a drug problem and a DUI arrest, who needs help. There are friends from the game around him trying to reach him, trying to help him back up on his feet. Whether he is listening to them or not, that is the question. But there is a lot of concern and genuine well wishes for Odom around the league — he was well liked by teammates, media and coaches.

Former Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro is one of those, and he told the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Dwyer that basketball will still be there for Odom.

“He is a good guy, a good teammate,” Del Negro said from his home in Phoenix. “Everybody liked him. There were no issues. I understand he is going through a lot right now. It is never easy. He has always had some difficult obstacles and they weigh on him a lot. You feel bad, but you hope he is all right…

“Lamar can still play,” he said. “It’s not the basketball skills that are the problem. Once he gets himself in shape and gets his mind wrapped around basketball, he can help somebody.”

That’s not what all teams think — one executive told the Times “Lamar can’t play anymore.” Certainly his struggles on the court the last couple seasons and the fact he is 34 make you think a comeback is a longshot.

Maybe that comeback can help motivate him. Odom has had advantages in life but to know him is to know his life was not easy — his father was a drug addict, his mother died of cancer when he was 12, his child died of sudden infant death syndrome at six months, and while in New York for the funeral of one family member a town car he was a passenger in hit and killed a 15-year-old cyclist.

Odom has made his made his share of mistakes (the drug suspension early in his NBA career), gone through a lot and he persevered. That made him more than just another two-dimensional player, but someone real. Someone you could relate to because none of us have been spared some degree of tragedy. He was a case where you could hope for redemption.

I still do.

While I would love to see Odom back on the court some day, what I really just want to see is him and his laugh back around the game. I want that for him because it means he will have persevered again.

  1. shanelsweet - Sep 3, 2013 at 1:25 PM

    Maybe he can get in shape and play well enough to help some team, but there’s lots of guys out there right now who can help some team that still aren’t playing. Don’t forget that when you run a team as a business that you also have to consider if your fans want to root for him and see him play. From the comments I’ve seen here and elsewhere, he doesn’t have enough fans left.

  2. cbrown386 - Sep 3, 2013 at 2:13 PM

    I think Lamar would be a great coach to help a new generation of skilled big men develop in the NBA. I’m hoping he gets clean and can either play again, or that one of his former coaches opens up a spot on the bench for him. Always seemed like a good guy even with his off-court problems.

  3. lancexsch - Sep 3, 2013 at 3:22 PM

    Holy grammar problems! Looks like this was written by a 9 year old!

  4. j0esixpack - Sep 3, 2013 at 10:43 PM

    Those fans who know what Odom has been through in his life – and know what a good person he truly is – will be rooting for him to make this next chapter in his life a good one, regardless of whether he plays professionally again.

    • badintent - Sep 4, 2013 at 2:56 AM

      Good one. Odom has had a life that few of us can relate to or understand. He does need help and need it now. He has some demons that are destroying him and no amount of NBA $$ can solve them. Hope his Church can give him some advice and wisdom before something tragic happens.

      • jimeejohnson - Sep 5, 2013 at 9:07 PM

        Good intent.

  5. spursareold - Sep 4, 2013 at 12:30 PM

    He went through a lot of that stuff while he was young, and came out fine.

    It’s no coincidence that he went from being a key cog with the Lakers to where he is now at a about exactly the time he married into the Kardashian circus. Probably the best thing that could happen to him is to bounce out of the league, have Khloe realize that he’s no longer rich/famous enough for her, and then dump him. At that point, maybe he’d listen to his friends again and get some help.

    • j0esixpack - Sep 4, 2013 at 8:07 PM

      Being drafted into the NBA at age 19 is not the same as “coming out fine”

      You don’t just go through that “stuff” as a young kid, lose you mother to cancer at age 12 and be “fine” – especially in the limelight of the NCAA tournament and NBA draft before you’re 20 – with the riches, fame and temptations that come with that lifestyle and that amount of money

      From what I could tell, Odom has been used by a lot of people along the way, including the coaches at UNLV (who did him no favors breaking rules on his behalf), Jim Harrick and others who recognized his talent and wanted to ride his coattails to riches

      He’s 33 now – so no longer a kid, and ultimately has to take responsibility for his own poor choices – but quite frankly, between playing in a place like LA, to living in the Kardshian circus, I’m surprised he didn’t implode sooner

      To me he’s still the kid with the kind heart – and I’m pulling for him to turn his life around.

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