Can Odom Revitalize Career With Clippers?
Lamar Odom couldn’t be happier. The 32-year-old is back in Los Angeles and as he dons his red, white and blue Clippers jersey for the first time, he can’t stop smiling.
After a miserable year with the Dallas Mavericks, Odom has returned to Los Angeles in an attempt to revitalize his career and prove that he can still help a contending team.
Odom is coming off of the least productive season of his 13-year career, which ended prematurely when the Mavericks dismissed him from the team last April. The small forward averaged career-lows across the board – 6.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 50 games – and became a distraction after being traded to Dallas over the offseason. Odom was listed as inactive for the remainder of the season and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban explained that the move was “addition by subtraction.”
While Odom’s recent struggles scared off plenty of teams, the Clippers were willing to trade for him this summer because they believe a return to Los Angeles is just what Odom needs. Odom became a household name during his seven-year stint with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning two championships as well as the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award in 2011. The organization is familiar with Odom since he was drafted by the Clippers in 1999 and spent four productive years with the team.
Odom insists that he’s in a much better place mentally and ready to return to form.
“Sometimes in order to do what we want and do what we expect of ourselves, we have to be in that happy place,” Odom said. “You have to be in the right place mentally. I’m in that place.”
“I’ve learned so many things, but mainly to be appreciative of the opportunity that I’ve been given,” Odom added. “I get to do what I love. At the end of the day, no matter where I’m at, I’m appreciative that I’m part of the small percentage of people in the world that know what they want to do and actually get to do it on the highest level. For that, I’m appreciative, thankful and grateful, especially to do it in an amazing place like L.A.”
Eleven years of Odom’s career have been spent in Los Angeles, which is why it was so difficult for him to leave when the Lakers traded him to the Mavericks right before the start of last season. He was forced to leave his comfort zone and he struggled with the change of scenery. Now, he’s thrilled to be back.
“It’s a little surreal,” Odom said of returning to Los Angeles. “I’m lucky, I’m blessed and I’m fortunate to be able to play in and represent the great city of L.A. I’ve been here since I was 19, man. I’ve only been away for two years – one good and one not so good. I’ve had a great time learning who I am, what I like, what I’m good at and what I’m not so good at here.”
The Clippers are gambling on Odom because they want to take the next step as a franchise and join the top tier of teams in the Western Conference. They’re hoping this high-risk, high-reward move pays off and allows them to contend for a championship. Odom will make $8,200,000 this season, making him the third-highest player on the team’s payroll, so he’ll be expected to be a significant contributor.
“I’m just going to be myself,” Odom said. “Everybody here has been so great and so welcoming. All I have to do is be Lamar – in the locker room, on the court and in the training room. That’s it. I’ve learned from the best, some of the top coaches, top players and top winners. I’ve learned from them. I’m going to pass some of that along to these guys as soon as we get in that locker room. There’s a certain mindset and a certain way that winners think, on and off the court.”
When Odom looks at the Clippers’ roster, he believes they have what it takes to compete for a championship. He insists that this is the deepest team he has played on and he can’t contain his excitement when discussing the versatile roster and all of the different lineups that the team will be able to deploy.
“This team is built to compete against the best teams in the NBA,” Odom said. “That should be our goal. This team can compete. If we were to play a seven-game series right now against the best teams in the NBA, I would expect us to compete.”
Odom became known as a winner after experiencing success with the Lakers. Prior to that, however, he played for some awful Clippers teams that finished near the bottom of the standings each year. During his first stint with the Clippers, the team was 112-216 over four years and didn’t make the playoffs once.
When Odom returned to the Clippers this summer, he noticed that the culture had changed completely. Coming off of a postseason run and led by superstars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the Clippers expected to win. They were no longer the laughingstock of the league, but rather an elite team with lofty goals.
“The team, when I left, was a lot different in terms of the tradition and the mindset,” Odom said. “The tradition has totally changed. Everybody is on the same page now. It’s a great feeling. This is a great organization. They’re not just a great team; the Los Angeles Clippers are a great organization.”
Even though Odom didn’t win many games during his last stint with the Clippers, he did fill the stat sheet on a nightly basis, averaging 15.4 points, 7.1 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.0 steal over the four years. He hopes to turn back the clock and display the same versatility this season.
“If I could have a year like that, like I had when I was 19 or 20, that’d be pretty special,” Odom said. “I expect to.”
Odom is confident that he’ll be able to bounce back this season. After all, he’s no stranger to overcoming obstacles. While last year’s struggles were difficult for Odom, they pale in comparison to some of the things that Odom has been through in the past. Odom’s life has been full of tragedies.
Growing up in Queens, Odom’s father, Joe, was a heroin addict and his mother, Cathy, died of colon cancer when he was just 12 years old. His grandmother, Mildred, moved into the home and raised him, but she also passed away in 2004. Odom also experienced the deaths of several close friends in addition to losing cousins, aunts and uncles as he was growing up.
Then, in 2006, Odom lost his seven-month-old son, Jayden, to sudden infant death syndrome in his crib. His son passed away three years to the day that his grandmother died. Odom was in a dark place and nearly quit playing basketball. However, he decided to continue his career and now he honors his mother, grandmother and son before every game by writing their names on his shoes with a black Sharpie.
Odom was disappointed in his play last season, but he’ll have no problem putting his on-court struggles behind him. Throughout his life, he has remained positive and overcame far worse off the court.
“Having to come back from that type of season, that’s easy compared to some of the things that I’ve seen and faced and had to deal with,” Odom said. “Basketball is easy compared to that.”
“This summer I’ve learned a lot about myself,” Odom added. “I’ve been through a lot and I’ve learned how to channel my energy and my thoughts. I’ve become a lot stronger over the last 12 months. I’ve been through a lot. I’ve lost some of the people closest to me and buried a child. I’ve won championships and got married in front of the world. I have insight.”
Odom’s story has been remarkable. Now that he’s back in a comfortable setting, he hopes to turn the page and add yet another chapter filled with happiness and success.