Lamar Odom's marriage to Khloe Kardashian and busy schedule helped ensure his focus for 2010-2011 season
Everywhere he turned, Lakers forward Lamar Odom met a flood of cameras following his way.
Once the doors to the Lakers' practice facility opened following a recent practice, a camera crew stationed itself on the sideline of the court, zooming in and focusing on Odom shooting. The team soon huddled up and then went their separate ways, signifying the end of practice. But the camera crew's work for Odom's reality television show -- debuting April 10 at p.m. on E! titled "Khloe and Lamar" -- was just beginning.
Odom met the assembled group of reporters that cover the Lakers on a daily basis, but their cameras weren't the only ones filming the scene after Monday's practice. Behind them stood various members of Odom's reality show crew, featuring camera men with extended microphones eager to pick up any morsel of Odom interacting with the media, whether it's a group interview or a one-on-one conversation. The same scene remained present in the locker room before the Lakers-Mavericks game last week where anything Odom uttered with a teammate, reporter or team official immediately prompted the cameramen to capture the scene.
The atmosphere provides the perfect symbolic image of his two worlds merging, his life as a Laker and his life as a husband to reality television star Khloe Kardashian. On the court, Odom's been the Lakers' most consistent player and proves in the running for NBA's Sixth Man of the Year honor, fulfilling that jack of all trades role both as a starter and as a reserve by posting a third-best 14.6 points on 53.3% shooting and a third-best 8.7 rebounds per game. Off the court, Odom and Kardashian are gearing up for Sunday's premiere of their reality show and hosted a cocktail party and red carpet event earlier this week where they promoted their unisex fragrance, "Unbreakable," at The Redbury, a Hollywood hotel. Odom's worlds aren't colliding like the famed George Costanza from "Seinfeld" once feared and making the Lakers star feel stretched thin. His worlds are meshing and making him feel more balanced.
"I'll be honest with you, it was one of the main motivating factors I've had in a long time in my career," Odom said at The Redbury. "To do this, I couldn't let my play slide."
Doing that would've fit an all-too convenient storyline. Odom had long impressed the Lakers with his versatility, his inviting personality and willingness to fit in any role, but he also frustrated the Lakers into even considering dumping his salary during the 2010 off-season because of his inconsistency. Even on the heels of proving a large part in carrying Team USA to its first FIBA World Championship this summer for the first time since 1994, there were valid concerns that his heavy schedule would lead to burnout, a sentiment that yours truly expressed and some close to the team even echoed.
Instead, Odom credited his stint with Team USA for preparing him for the mental fatigue that would come ahead. But that didn't stop him from playing with full intensity, so much so that Lakers Coach Phil Jackson singled him out as the only player on the Lakers to appear in training camp in full shape. Usually Jackson spends training camp needling Odom about his work ethic and conditioning, but not this time. Odom's leadership, hustle plays and dependable 7.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game on Team USA gives him enough consideration to make the 2012 Olympic roster, at least enough for Coach Mike Krzyzewski to rave about Odom on the phone to Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, and it easily carried over with the Lakers. Odom's always provided that presence for the Lakers ever since they acquired him in 2004 as part of the Shaquille O'Neal trade, but he's now doing it on a consistent basis.
"When Lamar took on this task, we thought, 'Oh my gosh, I hope he can do it,' " acknowledged Kris Jenner, Khloe's mother. "He's having the biggest and best year of his life. ... I'm baffled by how he's doing it all."
Those that remain skeptical will likely point to his recent two-game stretch where he's scored 19 points on eight-of-19 shooting with six turnovers, considering the camera production crew filmed Monday's practice. But that would overlook the fact production also took place during the Lakers' 110-82 victory March 31 against Dallas where he posted 16 points on six-of-10 shooting and 11 rebounds. It would also overlook that sample size doesn't represent the consistency he's showcased all season.
Prior to that contest, it showed how Odom's taken everyone along for the ride. Coaches, teammates, team officials and reporters, including yours truly, were asked to sign consent forms that E's television crew can use our footage should it make the cut during the editing process for the eight-episode series. As one player recently joked, "You don't want to be that one guy who refuses to sign the waiver."
Instead, the Lakers are using it as an opportunity to express their affection by the team's most beloved star in the locker room. Teammates have razzed him about his unisex fragrance ad, so much that Jackson inserted the commercial into film breakdowns, a routine he's kept over the years to keep his players from getting bored. He's received similar digs to the billboards on recent display over various parts of Los Angeles. And Jackson even joked he hopes Odom will learn how to swim in his show, an obvious swipe at an episode of "Keeping up with the Kardashians" that featured him struggling in that department.
"We rip him a lot about it," Bryant said with a smile. "But we're all proud of him and happy for him."
Odom demonstrated perfectly how he's remained down to earth following Monday's practice, something rarely seen or heard in Hollywood. With all the cameras following his every move, Odom eventually found his own time away from the production crew. Every week, Odom gets his bald head and beard trimmed by his personal barbershop in the media workroom outside of the Lakers' practice court. Even on the most hectic day, Odom informally shot the breeze with a handful of nearby reporters about basketball with zero hint of pretentiousness or hidden agenda. Hours later, Odom couldn't help but laugh when seeing me on site at The Redbury, where he and Khloe talked about their fragrance, upcoming reality show and hopes to have a child. I had just seen a small glimpse of his hectic schedule.
So how does he do it? Odom motioned his head toward Khloe, whom he described as his "coach," a storyline she felt reluctant in supporting.
"People say, 'Oh he's been doing so well since he married you,' but if he was doing bad, they would say, 'He [stinks] because of you," Khloe said. "I have nothing to do with whether he plays well or doesn't play well. I think Lamar is an amazing basketball player and I think he always had it in him, but I think he always had things on his shoulders. I'm the wife and I'll take care of whatever. I only want him to take care of basketball and I'll handle the rest. I don't think he's ever had that before."
But here's one thing he's already had: the cameras and attention around him. Odom's always been equipped to handle that part. Now with the balance in his life and laser-beam focus, Odom's also equipped to handle the extra responsibilities.
"Playing here and for this team has probably prepared me for more than anything," Odom said.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Khloe Kardashian and Lamar Odom debut their unisex perfume "Unbreakable" at Perfumania in Orlando, Fla., in February. Credit: Roberto Gonzalez / Associated Press