Pre-season question of the day: Will Lamar Odom's FIBA World Championship experience help him or lead to burnout this season?
Once the horn sounded, Team USA hugged together in jubilation.
The 81-64 USA victory Sunday over Turkey in the 2010 FIBA World Championship marked the team's first FIBA title since 1994. As Clippers guard Eric Gordon noted in The Times' Fabulous Forum, the feat surpassed expectations because no one from the 2008 Beijing Olympic team opted to play. The victory also was sweet for this team, whose young members forged an identity and a bond.
The title officially gives Team USA a berth in the 2012 London Olympics and cements the notion that the U.S. has adapted to international play. The competition for the 2012 roster spots could be rather interesting.
But soon after the gold-medal victory, it was back to business. The team already had checked out of its hotel before the championship game, with plans to fly back to the U.S. immediately after. They may have wanted to avoid the scrappy crowd of basketball fans in Istanbul, but players' thoughts were surely turning to NBA training camp. For Lakers forward Lamar Odom, camp starts Sept. 25. Lakers fans may be looking forward to the start of camp, counting the days, hours and minutes, but Odom -- having helped to secure a second consecutive NBA title before spending the summer chasing a gold medal -- likely will welcome the short respite before training begins.
That leads us to the pre-season question of the day: Will Odom's involvement in the 2010 FIBA World Championship help his game for the 2010-11 season? Or will it just ratchet up the fatigue level of a man who already had a full plate?
Both Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol cited fatigue and injuries as reasons they abstained from the FIBA competition. Basketball mileage could at some point take a toll on Odom. He's played in three consecutive Finals, competed in all 82 games last season and is only a season removed from playing with a sprained left shoulder and sprained right knee. And don't forget that Odom has a reality-TV show lined up with his wife, Khloe Kardashian. With the couple launching a unisex fragrance in February, the Lakers forward could be fielding more commercial offers. You begin to wonder when Odom will ever take a break.
But there are reasons to think Odom will benefit from playing in the FIBA World Championship, as long as he's careful not to succumb to burnout.
His time with Team USA will affect his Olympic legacy as well as his 2010-11 NBA season. Odom's gold medal partly rectifies the bronze he won at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Though Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant rightfully earned much of the credit in the FIBA championships for seemingly scoring at will (22.8 points per game), Odom's leadership, hustle plays and dependable 7.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game should give him a good shot at landing on the 2012 Olympic roster.
Odom's jack-of-all-trades role with Team USA is a familiar one. Even-keel energy and focus are characteristic of his play with the Lakers. Sure, he had lapses in both stats and effort, which I noted during Odom's exit interview. But the role Odom showcased with Team USA closely resembled the one he played on the Lakers. So don't expect a revolutionized Odom next season. I'd hope to see him simply sharpen his skills and improve his ability to play at center when the team needs it.
Then there's his locker-room presence with the Lakers. Odom recently joked to The Times' Broderick Turner that winning a world championship could give him bragging rights over Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who hadn't won a world championship. Sure, but Bryant still has the edge, right?
But consider this nugget from the New York Times' Pete Thamel, who said that, during the FIBA World Championship, Odom "became the soul of this team." Even though Bryant runs the Lakers with his play and Derek Fisher serves as the locker-room leader, Odom's amicable and approachable personality has made him a favorite among the players.
All in all, his experience with Team USA could at least make the Lakers think twice about putting him on the trading block.
But Odom also has to make time to rest. Hmm, how will that go? Let's turn to numerology readings involving the Lakers roster. I don't really put stock in astrology and the post I wrote was just in good fun, but the results did seem uncannily accurate. A description of Odom: "You tend to be flexible, progressive and restless.You can enhance your life experience even more by increasing your sense of loyalty and patience, better defining your purposes in life and not scattering your attention so much by going too many directions at once."
To avoid burnout, Odom may need to scale back.
I can't fault any player for capitalizing on his marketing potential. But it seems almost inevitable that his schedule will catch up with him. It's like a college kid after a string of all-nighters.
Odom could have gotten plenty of rest this off-season, but he chose to play in the FIBA World Championship, and it was the right choice. But Odom may now need to make some sacrifices. Doing so will help to ensure that his gold-medal experience will pay off with an improved performance in the 2010-11 season.
-- Mark Medina
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Photos, from top: USA center Lamar Odom tips the ball away from Turkey's Ersan Ilyasova in the FIBA championship game on Sunday. Credit: Kerim Okten / EPA. U.S. center Odom, who finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, puts down a dunk against Turkey on Sunday. Credit: Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press. Odom drives past Angola's Joaquim Gomes during Team USA's 121-66 victory last week. Credit: Kerim Okten / EPA