Lamar Odom should make 2012 U.S. Olympic team
Through his television screen, Kobe Bryant saw Lamar Odom provide the hustle plays, cross-court passes and versatile skill set for Team USA in the 2010 FIBA World Championships that made him such a valuable part of the Lakers. In this case, the services came at playing the center position.
"Lamar getting 15 rebounds in the gold medal match playing center?" Bryant said during training camp last year. "That shows the versatility that we have as a country when it comes to basketball."
Through his phone, Bryant heard Coach Mike Krzyzewski endlessly compliment Odom's locker room presence, positive attitude and ability to adapt to roles.
"He was really raving about him," Bryant recalled. "He said he was the leader on that team, bringing guys together and telling them what they need to do to get to that championship level."
And whether that would translate into a spot for Odom on the 2012 Olympic team? Although most of the 2008 Redeem Team, including Bryant, is likely to return, he didn't hesitate one bit when asked about Odom's prospects. Said Bryant: "He has a great chance."
He should. Odom sees a crowded field much like he did last season when he was left off the 2011 Western Conference All-Star team. But he's truly deserving of another Olympic bid after being part of the 2004 team that finished with a bronze medal.
USA will need his size to counter Spain's post presence in Pau and Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Nikola Mirotic. His ability to play and defend multiple positions becomes a necessity in international basketball. Odom's experience and leadership qualities fulfill Krzyzewski's preference for having a veteran player who holds everyone together.
Odom surely faces competition for a roster spot with Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, Tyson Chandler, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kendrick Perkins. But with a team that will require players able to adapt everywhere, Odom's the perfect fit.
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Photo: Team USA center Lamar Odom hit the ground during a World Cup Championship quarterfinal basketball match versus Russia in Istanbul. Credit: MUSTAFA OZER / AFP/Getty Images