Odom finds identity with second world championship team
ISTANBUL -- When last some of you saw
Such is the course of your 24/7 public life when you become a citizen of Kardashian World, as Odom has done with his marriage to
It all gives rise to the supposition that the man is a little, well, loopy.
Actually, he is.
But it also obscures the fact that Odom is an extremely cerebral and versatile player, a guy who during the NBA season might in one moment be on the perimeter getting the Lakers into their triangle offense and in the next be battling
And there is this, too: Only one person in the basketball-playing universe managed to be a "world" champion twice within three months -- Lamar Odom.
Among the several members of the U.S. team who benefited greatly from the gold-medal showing in the FIBA World Championship that ended Sunday in Istanbul --
For we tend to think of pro athletes as finished products, masters of their own domain, supremely confident about their own talents. Certainly many of them act that way, some to the point of delusion. But inside, away from the chest-pounding surety, most are plagued by the same nagging self-doubts as all of us, the same necessity to prove themselves, notch an identity, figure out a way to either become somebody or stay on top just a little longer.
I think that describes Odom, who turns 31 around the 2010-11 season opener. For the first five years of his career (four with the Clippers, one with the Heat), his sackful of talents seduced GMs and coaches into believing that he could be The Guy. Well, he can't be The Guy. It's not Odom. He has spent the last six seasons safely in the shadow of
This championship team gave him an identity. He was a leader, a rock, a tough guy and, predictably, a bastion of versatility who averaged 7.1 points (fifth on the team) and 7.7 rebounds (first), while averaging 22 minutes, fourth most behind only Durant,
Even as the U.S. struggled to finalize its roster a month ago, Odom's role was clear: Coach
"If Lamar didn't play well for us down there, we don't win," U.S. assistant coach
His backup at center,
"Nobody realizes it, but it's harder for an All-Star-type team to come together defensively than offensively," said Chandler, who mostly rode the pine in favor of Odom's experience in the final two U.S. games. "Offensively, you can always run a pick-and-roll or isolate somebody, but defensively you have to have a group that really buys into it and wants it. Coach preached it every day, and Lamar was a big part of that. He's a master at positioning, knowing where to be before the play gets started."
Odom tended to guard bigger players in the man-to-man defense the U.S. played most of the time. He invariably gave up a hoop or two in the beginning of the game, but he would make adjustments as the game went on, wearing them down with smarts and, as Chandler notes, positioning.
"What most people miss about guys like Lamar," said Boeheim, who has coached at Syracuse since 1976 and has never been with an NBA team, "is their ability to make adjustments on the fly. That's what the pro game is all about. These guys make game-to-game adjustments and even minute-to-minute adjustments. Lamar is as good as anyone I've been around in that part of the game."
Still, one could hardly expect a citizen of Kardashian World to be all work, no play, even during a tournament as grueling as the Worlds, and he concedes that "part of the deal in international play is increasing your brand."
And how would he do that?
"Well, you have to understand that the power of networking and meeting the right people is very important," Odom said. "There's no limit on how far you can take that thing. No one ever thought
I asked Odom if that happened.
"I wouldn't tell you if it did," he answered.
If it did, I'm sure the