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Why Lamar Odom may be 'the most underrated player in the league'

57855656One sequence that defines Lamar Odom's versatility goes like this: He grabs a defensive rebound, fires an outlet pass and his teammate finishes with an easy fast-break bucket. Or how about this: Odom grabs another board, leads the break and finishes with a coast-to-coast layup. Wait, there's another one: Odom directs the offense from up top, forcing defenses to decide whether they want to clog the lane to shut off Pau Gasol in the post or allow Odom to drill an open three-pointer. There's more: With Gasol already providing a formidable threat inside, Odom joins him in the post to relieve pressure. He either posts up and drives to the basket, settles for a mid-range jumper or kicks the ball out of a double team as the Lakers drain a three-point shot.

The various ways Odom remains a threat on the floor prompted Chicago Bulls Coach Tom Thibodeau to say Odom "might be the most underrated player in the league." That comment prompted Odom to respond humbly, "I'm not looking for a title, but anytime a coach can give you a compliment, you take it." When I followed up and asked Thibodeau what particular part of Odom's game is overlooked, he said "everything," including his ability to post up, shoot, pass, rebound and play defense.

Ever since this season began, Odom has earned nothing but praise. After Odom played in the 2010 FIBA World Championships last summer, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson credited him with becoming the team's most conditioned player. After former Lakers greats Jerry West and James Worthy unveiled the NBA All-Star ballots, they argued that Odom should make the cut because of his double-double average of 15.22 points on 57.4% shooting and 10.4 rebounds per game. West took it a step further, arguing that "he's one of the most under-appreciated players on this Laker team. When I see the press get on him for not scoring, that's not who Lamar Odom is."

I'll agree with the sentiment that parts of Odom's game are overlooked. But lots of the criticism in previous seasons had little to do with his production level and more to do with playing to his potential. He was once deemed to be the next Magic Johnson, after all. That being said, Odom has played an outstanding season thus far and has showcased a few areas that may fly under the radar.

 

1. Team-first mentality: Whether you're a teammate, reporter or fan, Odom by all accounts treats everyone with genuine respect and humility. That goes a long way in the Lakers locker room, and it has helped establish Odom as one of the team leaders. That's a tall order considering that Kobe Bryant's skill-set and work ethic and Derek Fisher's experience and eloquence dictate the team's agenda. Odom has become the guy everyone wants to be around because of his lighthearted nature and sense of humor. That extends to the court, considering that every player feels comfortable around him.

2. Hustle plays: Odom is the most relentless player on the glass and doesn't solely rely on his wingspan to clean the windows. He's adept at sneaking into the lane and boxing out his opponent. That wide wingspan makes it appear easy for him, but plenty of those boards come from Odom putting himself in the right position. He carries the same mindset when he dives for loose balls and denies entry passes. Underneath Odom's laid-back exterior is a relentless and hungry player.

3. Adaptable role: He showcases this by his ability to play with numerous combinations. When the Lakers play big, he's one of the featured post players. When the Lakers go small, he can help direct the offense. When he plays with the starters, he finds a way to make an impact without that effort coming at the expense of anyone else's production. And when he plays with the bench, he provides a calming and veteran presence as he helps the unit work out any mistakes.

Odom demonstrates his versatility the most on fast breaks. He displays his amazing court vision when he fires outlet passes nearly cross-court at rapid speed. The Lakers lead the league in offense with 111.53 points per game, thanks to running the break, striking a perfect balance between pushing the floor when there are mismatches and keeping to their deliberate pace suited to their aging personnel. Odom's cross-court passes serve as one example in expediting that process without gassing the team out. When that option isn't available, Odom often runs the break himself and finishes with a coast-to-coast layup, as teams are forced to shut off passing lanes to deny easy looks. But with Odom's speed and athleticism proving hard to stop, teams are just as punished when they shut off passing lanes.

-- Mark Medina
Twitter.com/latmedina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Lamar Odom had a 21 points and eight rebounds for the Lakers, who defeated Chicago, 98-91, Tuesday night at Staples Center. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

 
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It is safe to say that Lamar is looking a lot sharper than last year, and his defense is much improved. It will be interesting to see what they do when Andrew Bynum does return, however. He certainly could be six man of the year when it is all said and done, and he gives the Lakers a dynamic and match-up problem on both ends of the floor. When added to the already-potent bench, the Lakers could push for 70 wins..

Mark Medina, you are the only reporter who gives Lamar his fair comments. I always read your column just because you are the only oerson who sees my most favorite NBA player for who he really is.Why cant the others see him as a winner not just for himself but for thr team as a whole. Thank you for giving Props to Lamar.

WD -

I see Lamar for what he is; someone who actually has the supreme talent to really do it all. I've been a very big fan of his since he was playing with Rhode Island (saw him play at the Oracle arena way back in the day when I was going to Cal), and he's always been someone whom I've had my eye on as someone who could potentially be on the Lakers (when he played for the clippers and the Heat).

He's extremely valuable, and I'm just really happy that he is consistent. I think that will put it in the minds of lots of people that he is truly a star.

1. Was Phil lying?
2. It's rare that I go hard on Blog Familia. But pfunk really needs to quit. 11 championships and you spew venom on Phil like a man possessed. Phil is a championship coach. You are a fanboy. When Game 7's on the line and we're down in the 3rd quarter, I'll take Championship Coaching Wisdom before Fanboy Logic. Worked last June when we were in the exact same situation.

Great write up MM! As revelatory as the play of the "Killer B's" have been so far this season, I think it's the play of Lamar Odom that has truly impressed me the most.
Especially coming off his marriage to KK, where things could've easily gone the other way, I'm amazed by how much more consistently productive he has become. Whereas before he used to tease us with his versatility, it has now manifested itself into a full-fledged force to be reckoned with. The man is flat out ballin' right now and is "doin' work" on a nightly basis, while taking a page out of Kobe's book by playing effectively through various nagging injuries.
That he has been able to parlay his Gold Medal winning experience anchoring Team USA in Turkey this past summer right into the yeoman's work he has done with the Lakers so far this season has been nothing short of a godsend - the man has become the tru warrior (with all due respect to Ron Artest!)

In other news, the fall of Cam Newton has made its way onto the football field. Stunning...

Candy Man + the Killer B's could give the Lakers the strongest bench in the league. And the B's could keep the Lakers among the league's 3-point-shooting elite, as well. Who'da thunk it?

utz - Bama is manhanling Cam and Auburn...

I still think he wins the Heisman...and I believe all the accusations are true...

I think they should return Reggie Bush's Heisman...

Let's be real...you know all the top talent is getting some sort of compensation...

It is not fair, for the Universities make millions and millions, while athletes live on Top Ramen...Besides, the top notch talent, will be playing pro ball, so yes an education is great, but these guys will make millions in their first contract...

They can always go back to school if their careers don't pan out...But now, they have money, so they won't be a starving student...

Welcome back everybody; I trust you all enjoyed the annual "Turkey Feast." It's a great time to hang out and "chill."

Why Lamar Odom may be 'the most underrated player in the league'

The answer is simple: he made himself that way. This might be the first time in his career that he has actually applied himself to his craft.

I was against his playing in the FIBA this past summer and even wanted to use him for a trade but man, was I wrong. I had no doubt about his talent; it was his commitment to the "craft" that I questioned.

Now, everyone is "witnessing" all of the potential that was talking about over his entire career. When Rose came out of college, he was touted as the next Magic Johnson and the only player whoever came close is Lamar Odom.

It's too bad that Andrew is down because Lamar would easily become candidate for "Most Improved" and "6th Man." However, after watching this team in the very early season, they are playing as a team and no one seems to care about individual stats or awards; they are obviously focused on the
O'Brien, the greatest award of all!

GO LAKERS & IN BUSS WE TRUST!!


Lamar is not underrated. Everybody knows he ROCKS!!!!

He can make Zillions anywhere else, but to win rings, every player needs to make less in order to build a winnig team. It's all about the balance, contrary to what some GMs did...

Candy Man + the Killer B's could give the Lakers the strongest bench in the league.

Posted by: Allnet | November 26, 2010 at 01:08 PM
=====

If they continue playing at this high level, it might be talked about as of the greatest benches in NBA history.

I am convinced that Lamar Odom quietly made it his goal to play in the All-Star Game in Staples Center in February. Like Shannon Brown, who has some goals of his own, Lamar has been looking for his shot and has been more aggressive and decisive in every aspect of his game thus far in this very young season. Even the redoubtable John Hollinger has him raked all the up at #17 among NBA power forwards with studs like Tyrus Thomas, Amir Johnson, Brandon Bass and Kris Humphries deservedly raked higher than LO! (sarcasm)

Here's Hollinger's PER for power forwards for those who could care less.

http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/hollinger/statistics?position=pf&action=upsell&appRedirect=http%3a%2f%2finsider.espn.go.com%2fnba%2fhollinger%2fstatistics%3fposition%3dpf

I think they should return Reggie Bush's Heisman...Let's be real...you know all the top talent is getting some sort of compensation...It is not fair, for the Universities make millions and millions, while athletes live on Top Ramen...Besides, the top notch talent, will be playing pro ball, so yes an education is great, but these guys will make millions in their first contract...
They can always go back to school if their careers don't pan out...But now, they have money, so they won't be a starving student...Posted by: LEWSTRS | November 26, 2010 at 01:09 PM
*
Yes I have to say it...OUT FREAKIN STANDING SIR!!!!! KUDOS!!!

First of all, nobody playing less than 30 minutes a game should even be on that list. Secondly, Hollinger really needs to give it up - that list is ridonkulous.

I don't agree with the premise of this post. Lamar is getting appropriate consideration for his play this year. He has been great, and so has his publicity.

In the past, he has received very well-deserved criticism for failing to play to his potential. I'm thrilled with his play this year, but it only serves to confirm what I have long believed. Namely, LO has tremendous potential and if he only spent his offseason working on his game he could be an all star. It is great that he finally did use his off season more productively, but sad that it happened so late in his career.

I disagree. he is not underrated at all. I think he is overrated. He has underachieved massively. He has had an inconsistent jumper since he entered the league. He still cannot drive without drawing a charge. He is mentally weak. When we play tough teams he almost always vanishes.

LO isn't underrated in the league MM. An underrated player in the league would be the likes of Eric Gordon, Gerald Wallace, Russell Westbrook or even Derrick Rose. Guys who are the go to guy on their teams or a very good sidekick. yet whose impacts are diminished by top guys like a Bryant/Wade/Durant/Paul.

A better example would be Kobe Bryant 1999-2000 because while Shaquille O'Neal was destroying the league and sweeping all the MVP trophies (All-Star with Timmy D, Regular Season, Finals) Kobe was a force to be reckoned with also.

LO maybe underrated the most on this team since his team defense (which is very similar to how Bryon Scott's help defense was huge) and ability to help spread the floor along with his ball handling duties make him so un noticed by Laker fans who only care about his production.

but in the in the league....nah much better underrated players there are.

I've been a critic of Lamar's consistency over the years, but ever since Gasol joined the team, and the burden of being the second option was lifted from Lamar's shoulders, he has been pretty darn consistent. He's been the THIRD most consistent and VALUABLE Laker (after Kobe and Pau) for a team that went to three straight finals, but is still UNDER APPRECIATED by many Laker fans. They seem to remember the old Lamar, the one that played nervous under pressure, and was not able to handle the responsibilities that came with being the second option. That Lamar was gone three years ago, the day Gasol became a Laker. Last season, his shoulder injury prevented him from playing to his capabilities, but the Lamar we see today is pretty much the same Lamar we've been seeing the past three years. He has been playing all-star level basketball as a starter, whenever Bynum was out with injuries, for over three years now. If there is a big three on the Lakers, it is Kobe, Pau and Lamar, and has been for over three years.

"...but it only serves to confirm what I have long believed. Namely, LO has tremendous potential and if he only spent his offseason working on his game he could be an all star. It is great that he finally did use his off season more productively, but sad that it happened so late in his career."

Posted by: Mr. T

_________

Exactly! It's these kind of players that reminds me of what Coach Wooden would say: "If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"
Tha'ts "wasted talent," something Kobe will never be accused of. It's too bad that LO realized it so late in his career and which is why Kobe is so special because he understood it while he was still in H.S. Take note NBA: You "Wanna" Be Like Kobe!
He's the guy that we would all be if we were blessed with talent and playing in the league. He took that "gift" and worked hard every off season to add another dimension to his game and his teammates have seen the results. Caron followed suit, Shannon has learned and to an extent, I believe that's what LO did by playing in the FIBA: he was able to work out over the summer and win a world championship as well.


Good to see LO playing at the level worthy of his talent and getting his props for it.

I dont know what's more a more pathetic way to attract attention: North Korea trying to cause a major conflict in order to get concessions from the west, or the Eric Wright, Mike Jones, DFish, etc, etc, troll that tries to get on the blog from time to time just to voice his disapproval of Jon K and MM. Poor dude is probably as fat as Eric Cartman and needs to shower after endless nights of "self-gratification" and microwaved hot pockets. Get some help buddy, seriously, this is just sad....

Simply put, Lamar's game has been Pippen-esque this year. He's always had it in him and now it seems he has the right mentality to go with his talent. His myriad skills provide just the right element for his team....he has emerged as the glue guy of the two time defending champs.

@Pfunk 36 – What do I think? Yes, Phil certainly has said made his share of irresponsible comments. I don’t put the remarks about the Heat in that category. Phil Jackson is a great coach. That does not mean he’s above reproach. However, if Kobe was able to forgive Phil for the foolish things he said about him then I certainly don’t hold it against him.


As far as KC Jones is concerned. He was a great coach also. In addition to leading Boston to two chips he also was the assistant coach on the Lakers 72 championship team and had great success as the Bullets coach in the mid 70’s. He does not get his due for being a great coach. That is wrong. Not giving Phil credit for being a great coach is wrong also. Two wrongs don’t make a right.


@ChicNstu – That was a serious blues singer.


@Lew – coming hard with EMF…well done.


@Jefe – Haha, I believe you’re right about Lowell’s attitude. Nice cover by Ronstadt, but its hard to vision her smuggling contraband..lol. The Bryd's had a nice cover also. That’s a sure sign of a great song when other artist want to cover it. Here's a pure country version from a little known artist, Johnny Darrell, that definitely captures the essence of a "truckers anthem".


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uQLlquHbik&playnext=1&list=PL72EC4E12BD7DF1F0&index=45


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uQLlquHbik&playnext=1&list=PL72EC4E12BD7DF1F0&index=45

We need a big so that Lamar can play the 3.
He is not going to have a long career if he continues to play the 4. The banging will wear him down.

iiiiiii

Mamba24....I know you don't like MJ but in noreply@bleacherreport.com Heat Edition, MJ'S response to LaBron's Nike Ad "What do you want me to do?" is priceless. He says "Don't make excuses" Also it has the Laker's Edition and has some good Laker articles. Although you've probably seen it.

LRob,

Cole Fonseca would shred a guitar before his accident, now he shreds the Harmonica.

He is my Brother-in-laws cousin out of the central valley.

Thank God Lamar brought his talents to the Left Coast!

I think I made it pretty clear that Lamar had tremendous talent that he under utilized. But there are parts of his game that often go unnoticed.

iiiiiii Posted by: Jess | November 26, 2010 at 03:14 PM
*
Come on, come on you can do it!! iii what? Come on the whole world is waiting, just take a deep breath and let it all out!

Thank God Lamar brought his talents to the Left Coast! Posted by: K.W. | November 26, 2010 at 03:55 PM
*
Thank God indeed and In Buss We Trust!!!

Mamba24....I know you don't like MJ but in noreply@bleacherreport.com Heat Edition, MJ'S response to LaBron's Nike Ad "What do you want me to do?" is priceless. He says "Don't make excuses" Also it has the Laker's Edition and has some good Laker articles. Although you've probably seen it. Posted by: NewMexicoLL | November 26, 2010 at 03:22 PM
*
Hey NewMexicoLL. Actually I did not see the article thank you for telling me about it. While I dislike MJ I respect his talent and his reply to Princess Jimmy is priceless!!! Thank you, you have made my day!!!! Now on toward our next win tonight!!! It's gonna be real close but we will win!!!

It's not just this season that Lamar has been great; consider that he has been the other main post player with Pau during the last three Finals. Rewatch the fourth quarter of last year's Finals Game 7; Lamar came out and did all the things the Bulls coach talks about and brought the Lakers from 15 down to be in position to win in the fourth quarter. He's been underrated for years. Remember the summer talk about trading him? In many ways, he's the spoon that stirs the drink (apologies to Reggie Jackson). Guess which other team wants Lamar? All of 'em.

Opps. The above should say "rewatch the THIRD quarter of last year's finals...

Wow!!! There are a lot of young poster here. I say that because those who think LO is inconsistent don't realize he does what PJ asks of him. Great comment by Caliphilosopher because LO HAS BEEN a force in the League for years. When he was with the Clippers, he was the young leader of the team that made the playoffs under Larry Brown. In Miami, he, D-Wade and Caron led the fast break team into a sucessful playoff run before Shaq. When he got to the Lakers they tried to make him something that he wasn't, a scorer without the ball. Phil then realized his accumen and let him do whatever was needed on a given night. It wasn't until this year (coencidently his also more healthy than ever) has he brought the whole package almost every night. It has alot to do with health, confidence, and a defined role. Don't hate but appreciate the man's game.

Also, and maybe most importantly, he lost his son and grandmother in his early years with the Lakers. If anyone of you had gone through what LO went through I doubt that you would be able to do your job with the same vigor. I know I wasn't able to when it happened to me.

Lots of dopey comments here. I'll say this: Lamar has always been the player he's meant to be. He's a complete player--not the marquee player many wanted him to be, but a great practitioner of team basketball. Anyone who knows the sport marvels at his skill.

He's coming now into his peak years, and I for one am happy to watch him play the best ball of his life.

Incidentally: his wife is a real piece of tail

They have to move out of the family house, if it belonged to their spouse.


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