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Player Report Card: Lamar Odom

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This is the next in our series of Player Report Cards, in which we evaluate and assign a grade to the performance of each member of the 2009-10 Los Angeles Lakers. Up today is Lamar Joseph Odom. You can call him LO for short, or The Candyman to spice sweeten things up.

Lamar Odom is a busy man these days. Whether taking some time to manage his personal brand, Rich Soil (purveyors of music, film, and fashion), or playing a bit role in either of his wife Khloe Kardashian's two reality shows (with a rumored third on the way, centered on Lamar and Khloe's attempts to mate), the man has a lot on his plate.

He also plays basketball profesionally. Therein, for some, lies the problem. Considering LO was already judged to be inconsistent long before he ever married someone who's famous for being famous, all these distractions he's got piled up on the side sure don't seem to be doing him any favors. Kobe Bryant he is not, but is it too much to ask for a player who is already deemed to be not fully living up to his talent not to invite further criticism by living a large portion of his life in the public eye?

That's why, as Laker fans, we were praying that Kobe and Pau Gasol would take the summer off from playing for their respective national teams in the upcoming FIBA World Championships, but nobody batted an eye when it was announced that Lamar would be donning the red, white, and blue this summer. Lamar has played as many or more games than Kobe and Pau over the past few seasons, but nobody is concerned about his level of fatigue as we might for our two superstars, because nobody is convinced that Lamar works that hard all the time.

The book on Lamar Odom has been written for some time now. When you approach double digit years as a professional, it becomes difficult for anyone to imagine you doing anything different from what you've always done. And Lamar has always been inconsistent. Capable of superstar performances and Houdini-like disappearing acts in back to back games. Some nights, he's the best player on the court (and with the previously mentioned 1st team All-NBA combo of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol on the team, that's pretty damned impressive). Other nights, he's being taken to school by Glen "Big Baby Uno Uno" Davis.

Midway through the season, I made the point that Lamar Odom has finally been properly evaluated and paid according to what he can provide. His best is a level of production that usually garners just about a maximum contract. If given the minutes, he can rattle off a string of 20 pt, 15 reb games like I can rattle off state capitals. His worst is something along the lines of 4 points and 5 boards in 30 minutes, numbers that Josh Powell thinks are pathetic. He is paid right in the middle (roughly $8M per year), right at the average of poor and exemplary.

Unfortunately, I made that salient point in the middle of a piece that turned out to be complete hogwash, because it's premise was that Lamar Odom is clutch. He doesn't (can't) perform at his best all the time, but when the Lakers need him, he brings the goods, I said. Lamar then proceeded to spend most of the playoffs making me look like a fool. Check out his splits from the different playoff series

MIN

PTS

REB

EFG

PF

vs. OKC

26.2

7.8

6.8

0.46

3.8

vs. UTA

28

9.5

10

0.56

4.3

vs. PHX

34.3

14

11.8

0.49

3.5

vs. BOS

27.4

7.6

6.6

0.5

3.3

When I look at that, I see one great series, one OK series, and two serious clunkers. If we throw out the Utah series (because the Jazz were completely over-matched and the Lakers could have won with Josh Powell playing big minutes), we're left with a 1 out of 3 success rate of Lamar being a difference maker, including his epic failure in the Finals. Most concerning was his propensity for picking up fouls, nearly average 4 a game, despite not averaging 30 minutes per. If you remember, he picked up 6 fouls in 15 total minutes in the 1st halves of Games 1 and 2 of the NBA Finals, and he repeatedly let foul trouble take him out of his game during the playoffs. That's the type of thing you would normally associate with a 2nd year player getting his first taste of the playoffs, not a 10 year veteran who's been to the Finals for three straight seasons.

Put simply, it was not the best of seasons for Lamar Odom. In fact, over many statistical categories, it may well have been his worst as a Laker. His points and rebounds/game both were down, although that can be forgiven as Andrew Bynum shoulders more and more responsibility in both areas. His shooting was only better than his first year in the purple and gold, a year we'd all like to forget. And it was the lowest performance in that grand all-telling stat, PER, that we've ever seen out of LO.

And yet, Lamar has to be given credit for contributions that never make it onto the stat sheet. In many ways, LO is every bit the intangible force that Derek Fisher is. It doesn't manifest itself in the same way (i.e. always succeeding in big moments), but so much of Lamar's contribution to this team can not be seen in the box score. For one, LO is probably the best defensive big man we've got, certainly the most adept at playing the pick and roll. I can't find the link, but I recall Kelly Dwyer saying that LO was one of the best help defenders in the league, and I can't argue with that (though my own limited experience would simply label him the best help defender on our roster).

But perhaps even more important (and certainly less tangible), Lamar Odom is the soul of this team. It's odd to say, considering the Lakers have a starting 5 which consists of: the greatest player in the game today, possibly the best big man in the game today, a former all-star/defensive player of the year, a rising star big man, and a future head coach. Despite all that talent/experience/ability, it is Lamar that makes this team tick. He's the glue. More than any other player on the roster, he has willingly sacrificed his own individual accolades and glory for the sake of the team.

On a team with so much talent/personality/ego (back to back champs have plenty of ego), there's a damn good reason why Lamar is at the center of every team circle, dancing, shouting, leading the team in their pre-game rituals. His overall performance on the court wasn't quite up to snuff this year, but his value to the team can not be overstated. For that reason alone, he gets a solid grade.

Final Grade: B