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Tag:Lamar Odom
Posted on: April 20, 2011 2:42 pm
Edited on: April 20, 2011 5:37 pm
 

Series Reset: A must-win for the Lakers?

We reset the Hornets-Lakers series with Game 2 set to tip Wednesday night. L.A. needs to even the score. Posted by Ben Golliver.
chris-paul-baby


The Narrative:

The underdog New Orleans Hornets -- smaller, less talented and with a weaker bench than the favored Los Angeles Lakers -- played a near perfect Game 1 . That meant protecting the ball, getting huge contributions from their reserves and enjoying a masterful performance from point guard Chris Paul. Paul's huge night -- 33 points, 14 assists, seven rebounds and four steals -- and late-game efficiency clearly had the Lakers on their heels. Aside from Kobe Bryant, whose 34 points led the way, and some flashes from Andrew Bynum, the Lakers mostly no-showed. Pau Gasol was passive and unproductive -- eight points and six rebounds in 38 minutes -- and has taken a lion's share of the blame.

The Hook:

Quite simply: Do the Lakers finally flip the switch in Game 2? L.A.'s late-season play (they lost five of their last seven entering the playoffs) and lackluster effort have been well-chronicled. Despite that, the Los Angeles continues to possess match-up advantages all over the court. The Hornets have no real answer for Bryant, shouldn't have an answer for a motivated Gasol, struggled to contain Bynum's length, and could easily become the victim of a monster performance from Lamar Odom off the bench on any given night.

In essence, Game 2 boils down to whether the Lakers core players show up, as a group, locked in. If they do, L.A. should be able to restore order fairly easily on their homecourt. If not, it will be panic time.

The Adjustment:

Flipping that switch will start on the defensive end, where the odds dictate that the Hornets' bench will not shoot a combined 16-22 again. Expecting the role players to fall back to Earth doesn't solve the Chris Paul conundrum, though. Keeping Paul in check is a difficult proposition for any team. Expect the Lakers to throw multiple looks at him, and to work extra hard to get the ball out of his hands. The return of reserve guard Steve Blake, who was battling chicken pox , can't hurt. Blake's not a Paul-stopper by any means, but his ability to give some minutes allows L.A. to return to its usual guard rotations, lessening the burden on Derek Fisher, who played 39 minutes -- 11 more than his season average -- in Game 1.

The X-Factor:

On Tuesday, the NBA awarded Odom its Sixth Man of the Year award , and his teammates reportedly celebrated the occasion by offering him a standing ovation. Wednesday would be a great time for Odom to deliver on that adulation with a game-changing performance. Odom scored 10 points in Game 1 but his all-around play was lacking. He had just one rebound, two assists and he committed more turnovers (one) than he registered steals and blocks combined (zero). New Orleans' team intensity level offers some explanation for why L.A.'s bench came up small in Game 1, but there's no excuse at this point. Odom is a more skilled all-around player than every frontcourt player on the Hornets' roster. Even though it's only Game 2 of the opening round, we've reached "making presence felt" time for Odom.

The Sticking Point:

Reserve big man Aaron Gray is questionable for Game 2 with a sprained ankle , which usually wouldn't matter. But Gray played out of his mind in Game 1, holding Gasol in check for stretches, making all five of his field goal attempts to finish with 12 points, and posting an astonishing +25 in the +/- category. Gray was so good that Paul called him the MVP of Game 1. Without Gray, New Orleans is left with a frontcourt rotation that includes Emeka Okafor, Carl Landry, D.J. Mbenga and Jason Smith. Both Okafor and Landry have their hands full avoiding foul trouble and Mbenga showed in Game 1 that about all he was good for was hacking Bynum. Gray, however improbable it might seem, is a difference-maker because the Hornets' are simply that desperate for big bodies. If he can't go, it could be another long night on the boards for the Hornets, as the Lakers won the rebounding battle, 41-33, in Game 1. [Update: following Wednesday's shootaround, Gray says he will give it a go.]
Posted on: April 19, 2011 1:00 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2011 6:15 pm
 

Lamar Odom named NBA Sixth Man of the Year

Posted by Royce Young



Tuesday morning, the Lakers called a press conference involving Lamar Odom and they weren't just announcing another reality show. Odom has been named this season's NBA Sixth Man of the Year. 

Tuesday afternoon, the Lakers issued the following statement confirming the honor.
“Lamar could realistically start for any team in this league but his team-first attitude has allowed us to utilize him in a sixth man role,” said Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak.  “He could have won this award in any of the last several seasons and I’m happy that his unselfishness and talent have finally been recognized.” 
I wrote a few weeks ago about Odom and to me, it was about a no-brainer pick as there is. Odom embodied everything a sixth man should be. He filled in starter time, played excellent minutes off the bench and provided the Lakers with one of the top weapons in the league. 

You could make an argument for this being Odom's best season, especially in terms of efficiency. He averaged 14.4 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game in 32.5 minutes a night. He also shot 53 percent from the field, a career-high. He finished with a 19.50 PER which is also the best he's had in his nine-year career.

He's always been sort of the X-factor for the Lakers because of his unique skillset. And he's always been very good for them in whatever role he's used. But his main issue has been consistency. This season, he's been reliable almost every single night. When that happens not only is he one of the most dynamic players in basketball, but the Lakers are maybe the toughest team to beat.

There were certainly other good candidates. Jason Terry, Thaddeus Young, Glen Davis, Jamal Crawford -- all good players. But Odom really feels like the one player out of this group that if you subtracted him, his team would be cost a substantial number of wins. I really think he's that valuable to what the Lakers do. Just the options he gives Phil Jackson late in games to match up or create mismatches with.

Really, the best argument there is right now as to why not to vote for Odom is because he started so many games. As long as he's within the rules, it doesn't matter to me and again, I kind of like that. Like I said, being the type of play that's able to fill in wherever is needed is what makes a great sixth man.

No Laker had ever previously won the Sixth Man award, which started in 1983. Odom finished sixth in voting in 2010, earning one of 120 first-place votes.
Posted on: April 15, 2011 2:32 am
Edited on: April 15, 2011 2:37 am
 

Hornets-Lakers preview: Champs get their wish

A preview of the first round playoff series between the Los Angeles Lakers and the New Orleans Hornets. Posted by Ben Golliver.

kobe-cp3

I. Intro: No. 7 seed New Orleans Hornets (46-36) vs. No. 2 seed Los Angeles Lakers (57-25)

The difference between the two teams in this series is simple. The Los Angeles Lakers think they have it bad. The New Orleans Hornets actually do have it bad. 

The Lakers enter the postseason just 2-5 in their last seven games, they lost a backup point guard to chicken pox and nearly lost their starting center to yet another knee injury. Only a Kobe Bryant last-second three-pointer on Wednesday night saved the Lakers from slipping to the West’s No. 3 seed and a much tougher series with the Portland Trail Blazers. The Hornets, though, actually do have it bad. After beginning the season 11-1, the Hornets have played exactly .500 ball (35-35) since late-November. They’ve lost their best interior player, David West, to a season-ending knee injury and their franchise point guard, Chris Paul, has dealt with fluid in his surgically repaired knee, closing the season averaging just 7.3 points per game and shooting 31% from the field in the team’s last four games.

One team's problems are clearly much weightier.

II. What Happened: A look at the season series

It’s fair to say that the two-time defending champs dismantled the Hornets during their regular season match-ups, sweeping all four games. The Lakers averaged 101.8 points per game in the victories while holding the Hornets to just 91.0 points per game, making for a colossal 10.8 point average margin of victory. All four wins came since the end of December so they are fairly representative. 

Remarkably, the Lakers have shot poorly from deep – just 29.7% as a team – and yet still managed to shoot 51.0% overall from the field, a testament to how many easy buckets they've generated thanks to the interior advantage LA’s big men possess over the short-handed and undersized Hornets front line. Meanwhile, New Orleans has shot just 43.7% from the floor and really struggled from deep in three of the four meetings. Nothing came easy for the Hornets even though they did a decent job of taking care of the basketball. Add all of those numbers and it just screams "blatant talent disparity."

III. The Easy Stuff: The Laker bigs are overwhelming

First: credit where credit is due. New Orleans’ two best big healthy big men – Emeka Okafor and Carl Landry – have both fared pretty well against the Lakers this season. Okafor slapped up averages of 12.3 points and 10.3 rebounds while Landry added 14.8 points and 6.8 rebounds. Combined, that’s pretty solid production for a team that’s lacking a go-to inside scorer now that West is done for the season. 

But LA’s three-headed monster of Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom makes those numbers look puny by comparison. Together, the trio has averaged an eye-popping 51.8 points and 25.6 rebounds per game against the Hornets this year. Really, that's enough said. Gasol, in particular, has been a tough cover for the Hornets, as he’s put up 22.3 points and 12.8 rebounds per game by himself and figures to be the most difficult match-up for New Orleans given his length, versatility, mobility and skill. The only thing that could possibly stop Gasol in this series is if his teammates forget to pass him the ball.

IV. Secret of the Series: The Lakers need to show up

Los Angeles has every motivation to make quick work of the Hornets as a second round series against either the Dallas Mavericks or Portland Trail Blazers is looming. It’s quite possible that LA could get a significant amount of rest given that Dallas/Portland will likely go six or seven games. Late-season motivation has been a problem recently, as coach Phil Jackson has called out his team’s professionalism and the Lakers nearly blew a 20+ point lead against the Kings on the final night of the season, despite playoff implications being on the line. 

Ultimately, the responsibility for showing up falls to Jackson and Kobe Bryant. Not only is that pair familiar with winning, they’re familiar with the boredom that comes from winning often. They also know where the light switch is located. Expect them to flip it sooner rather than later.

V. The Dinosaur Narrative: "Andrew Bynum’s knee injury could be a game-changer"

That particular line of thinking is old and familiar, due to Bynum’s lengthy injury history, but it’s also a bit too early. Against the Hornets, the Lakers could likely win without him, shifting to a smaller lineup that would still possess a talent advantage at virtually every position. At the top of the list of reasons that New Orleans is an ideal match-up for Los Angeles is that Jackson should be able to manage Bynum’s minutes with ease, ensuring he’s fully ready for potential later round match-ups with guys like Tyson Chandler, Marcus Camby or Tim Duncan

Bynum is only said to have a bone bruise, anyway, but it's worth monitoring his progress and playing time in this New Orleans series.

VI. The Line-Item Veto: Who wins each match-up?

PG: The Hornets have one match-up advantage, and it’s a massive one. Even though he’s not playing at the top of his game, Chris Paul is a nightmare cover for any team, especially one who will rely on Derek Fisher and Shannon Brown to play more minutes than usual in Steve Blake’s indefinite absence due to chicken pox. Advantage Hornets.

SG: Kobe Bryant is the best shooting guard in the game and Marco Belinelli is not. No further discussion necessary. Advantage Lakers.

SF: LA’s small forward of the past, Trevor Ariza, faces off against LA’s small forward of the present, Ron Artest. Ariza has better numbers on the season but Artest and all of his antics and physicality will surely make his life miserable. Call this one a push.

PF: As documented above, Pau Gasol against Carl Landry is likely to get ugly in a hurry. Big advantage Lakers.  

C: Okafor’s individual numbers against the Lakers are better than Bynum’s individual numbers against the Hornets, but Gasol will spend time at the five to clear minutes for Lamar Odom off the bench. Even a Herculean performance from Okafor won’t help the Hornets keep pace here. Advantage Lakers.

Bench: Odom, a sixth man of the year candidate, plus Brown, an athletic tempo-changer are better than New Orleans’ bench, which is essentially a scrap heap up front with Wilie Green and Jarrett Jack capable of making some noise in the backcourt. Advantage Lakers.

Coach: Phil Jackson has won 11 titles as a head coach and has won 225 playoff games. Monty Williams, as talented and respected a rookie head coach as you’ll find in the NBA, has won zero playoff games as a head coach. Williams deserves some love for Coach of the Year and could become a mainstay on the sidelines for decades, but the two men don’t belong in the same sentence right now. Advantage Lakers.

VII. Conclusion

Los Angeles got its dream match-up – finally – when it put away the Kings away in overtime on the last day of the regular season. The Hornets enter the series without their All-Star forward, David West, and with question marks surrounding Chris Paul, who recently had his knee drained of fluid and was held scoreless for the first time in his career. The Hornets don’t have much of a bench and certainly can’t compete with LA’s monstrous, versatile frontline trio of Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. Forget about it. Prediction: Lakers in 4.

VIII. CBSSports.com Video Preview

Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers will look to defend their title as they take on Chris Paul and the New Orleans Hornets in this round 1 playoff matchup. Ian Eagle and Ken Berger preview this upcoming matchup.

 

Posted on: April 12, 2011 11:22 am
Edited on: April 12, 2011 11:28 am
 

Kobe Bryant: Don't bury Lakers yet

Los Angeles Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant says this year's Lakers are in a better spot than last year's version. Posted by Ben Golliver. kobe-bryant

On Monday, we argued that the Los Angeles Lakers are still the favorites to come out of the Western Conference -- despite their five-game losing streak -- because they possess the most talented and tested group among the West's elite. For the Lakers, though, it appears to be less about how they stack up to their competition this season rather than how they compare to last year's title-winning group. 

Indeed, Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant tells the LA Times that he's not worried about the team's recent struggles because this year's team is in a better spot than last year's.  
"Everybody wants to put the nail in the coffin," Kobe Bryant said. "We've all been there before." 
"Last year we didn't know what the hell was going on," Bryant said. "We had a lot of injuries. My knee needed to be operated on. A lot of question marks.
"Here we really don't have any question marks. These are executional things, these are correctable things. From that standpoint, we all feel comfortable about it. You don't even see anybody here feeling like it's doom and gloom because these are problems that can be corrected and will be corrected."
A few of last year's question marks, in addition to Bryant's knee, included center Andrew Bynum's health, the integration of Ron Artest into the Lakers' system and how Derek Fisher would fare against the West's elite point guards. 

Is Bryant right to say that this year's group has less question marks? Without a doubt. A fully healthy Bryant, even if he's a year older, outweighs all other concerns, especially because the rest of the Lakers' core -- Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Bynum, Artest -- remains intact. There are still questions about Artest's role but he clearly proved his worth during the post-season last year and Bynum has been playing some of the best ball of his career over the last few months.

The biggest question for this year's team was a concern last year too: motivation. The Lakers closed last season 4-7 in their last 11 games and have lost five straight this year. But, just like last season, they enjoyed a dominant stretch in March that should ease those concerns. Last year, the Lakers won seven straight in March; this year, LA ran off 12 victories in 13 games in March. LA has already clinched the Pacific Division title and should they win out -- against the San Antonio Spurs and Sacramento Kings -- they'll finish with an identical record to last season: 57-25. We know how that turned out: the Lakers went 16-7 on their way to a second consecutive title.

In other words, don't bury the Lakers yet.
Posted on: April 11, 2011 2:12 pm
Edited on: April 12, 2011 4:21 pm
 

Road to the Finals: Los Angeles Lakers

Can the Los Angeles Lakers survive the Western Conference for their chance at a three-peat? Posted by Ben Golliver.
kobe-phil-trophy

The last thing that the Los Angeles Lakers and their fans are thinking about on Monday is the NBA Finals. The team has lost five straight for the first time in years, getting outrun by the slowest team in the NBA (the Portland Trail Blazers) on Friday night and out-executed down the stretch by a bunch of youngsters (the Oklahoma City Thunder) on Sunday. It’s never panic time when you’re the most talented and most tested team in the NBA, but things feel a lot different in mid-April than they did as recently as March, when the Lakers looked unbeatable, running off nine straight wins and briefly making a push for the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed.

To his credit, Lakers coach Phil Jackson is saying all the right things, calling out his players’ professionalism in Portland, saying that any talk of the Finals is “ludicrous” and stating very simply according to ESPNLA.com : “We're not concerned with anything in the Eastern Conference at all. Nothing.” Jackson didn’t win any of his 11 NBA titles as a coach by looking ahead, and he certainly isn’t going to jeopardize his run at a fourth three-peat by allowing his players to skip a step.

While it’s Jackson’s job to keep the focus tight, it’s our job to break out the wide angle lens. And the panoramic view of the Western Conference still looks much like it has for the three seasons: It’s the Lakers, and then everybody else. Whether you prefer a more subjective approach or a numbers-based outlook, the Lakers make dominant arguments.

LA sports the league’s fiercest competitor, Kobe Bryant, who at 32 years old is still cranking out 25 points per game and maintaining his 45% percent or better shooting percentage for the sixth straight season. He’s the best one-on-one offensive player in the Western Conference and he lives for the moment. His resume says it all: five rings, two Finals MVPs, countless game-winners. The Lakers’ story starts and ends with his ability to impose his will on both ends of the court, extract maximum effort from his teammates and make the key plays down the stretch.

Inside, the Lakers have the best trio of bigs in the game: Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. Each has his weaknesses: Bynum is slow in transition, Gasol gets knocked for being soft and floating and Odom has dealt with questions about his consistency and focus for years. But together they are an overwhelming force, particularly when L.A.’s ball movement is humming. Gasol, who averaged 18.8 points and 10.1 rebounds, is a multi-dimensional threat, a skilled, fluid, long big man who is a nightmare match-up for all of the other top Western Conference teams. Bynum fills the space-eating and finish-at-the-rim roles well, while Odom can attack off the dribble, make effort plays defensively and gives L.A. some versatility in defending combo forwards.

The Bryant, Gasol, Bynum, Odom core is supplemented by Ron Artest – a physical wing who excels at playoff head games and making stars uncomfortable – and veteran guards Derek Fisher and Steve Blake – a heady, tested floor general and a knockdown shooter. Toss in Shannon Brown for some backcourt athleticism off the bench and Matt Barnes for more bullying hijinks and that’s the squad.

Road To The Finals

This group is the West’s favorite because they can beat you in every way. The Lakers are the No. 7 offense in the league through Sunday, a number that’s a little misleading because they’ve slipped a bit during this recent slide. Make no mistake: they can carve you up or pound it down your throat on any given night. Defensively, the Lakers are No. 6 in the league and currently rank as the Western Conference’s top unit. They excel at controlling the backboards – the No. 4 overall rebounding team – and protecting the basketball – the No. 2 team in terms of limiting turnovers. Despite all the harping on Bryant for breaking out of the team’s offense and doing his own thing, the Lakers are even a top 10 team when it comes to assist rate, a measure of what percentage of a team’s baskets come via assist. To boil it down: other than staying motivated late in the season, the Lakers simply don’t have a true weakness.

For this reason, they are the nightmare match-up for each of the West’s other contenders.

If the playoffs were to start today, the Lakers would have their dream first round match-up: they would be the No. 2 seed facing the No. 7 seed New Orleans Hornets. The Hornets have had a great run under first year coach Monty Williams, but they’ve essentially played .500 basketball over the last few months and lost starting power forward and go-to inside option David West. To make matters worse, franchise point guard Chris Paul is dealing with knee issues, as he had fluid drained last week and failed to score against the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday night, the first time that’s happened during his NBA career. If that series goes five games, consider New Orleans lucky.

The Lakers are most likely to face the Dallas Mavericks, another team that’s stumbled in recent weeks, in the second round. Any way you slice that one, and regardless of who has home court advantage, the match-ups come up in LA’s favor. The Lakers have plenty of guys to harass Dirk Nowitzki, while Bryant is fully capable of making life miserable for any of Dallas’s perimeter defenders. The only tough cover for LA is Jason Terry, but that’s a secondary concern. A recent Lakers blowout of the Mavericks, in which Dallas lost its cool, felt like a fairly accurate playoff preview. This series wouldn’t be a landslide, but the Lakers are simply too skilled, top-to-bottom, to trip up.

Things get more interesting, though, when we get to the Western Conference Finals discussion.

Against the Spurs, the Lakers clearly have an overwhelming frontcourt advantage, with Tim Duncan unable to compete single-handedly with LA’s trees. His colleagues either too small or too old to provide an adequate counterbalance to the Gasol/Bynum/Odom triad. San Antonio will turn to its new-look, super-efficient offense to make up for their lack of size, but it’s unclear whether they will be able to consistently generate the pace necessary to make it work. The Spurs will also be seriously out-manned by the size, length and strength of LA’s wings with no good match-up for Lamar Odom. As long as Tony Parker doesn’t completely dissect LA’s perimeter defense, LA should be able to survive what is always a serious test.

The most intriguing Western Conference Finals match-ups, though, would come if either the Oklahoma City Thunder or Denver Nuggets are able to slip through that side of the bracket. As the Thunder showed on Sunday, they’re not afraid of the Lakers and they are talented enough and boast enough star power, in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, to make life really, really difficult for anyone they face, including the defending champions. In Denver, it’s a new-model approach to success in the NBA: a star-free, all-quality rotation that never lets up and executes extremely well. Both the Thunder and the Nuggets are riding high coming into the playoffs – both are 8-2 in their last 10 – and both are very well coached teams that play very well at home.    

But even with the Thunder and the Nuggets, the arguments for the Lakers advancing are easier to make than the arguments against. This group of Lakers has beaten a super-efficient offense: the 2009 Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals. This group of Lakers has beaten a hard-working, team-centric group with great balance: the 2010 Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. This group of Lakers beat the Thunder last year and beat a good approximation of the Nuggets when they downed the high-octane, hard-charging Phoenix Suns in last season’s Western Conference Finals.

LA has everything you need to be a true contender: good health at the moment, experience, top-end talent, solid coaching, a go-to scoring option a recent track record of success against their biggest threats and, of course, the rings. The Lakers certainly can’t take anything for granted, not with the quality of competition in the West this season, but they take our title as “Finals Favorite” with ease. 

Posted on: April 4, 2011 4:18 pm
 

Lamar Odom, Khloe Kardashian TV show trailer

Los Angeles Lakers star Lamar Odom is appearing in a reality TV show with his wife, Khloe Kardashian, and the pair has released a trailer for the show. Posted by Ben Golliver.

Back in January, we noted that Los Angeles Lakers star Lamar Odom and his wife, Khloe Kardashian, had landed a reality TV show . Ever since that news broke, I've just been sitting here at my computer waiting to write a follow up post every time something new comes out about the show. It's been a long three months, and I got sidetracked by the launch of their unisex fragrance --"Unbreakable" -- and the super creepy ad for it. I'm proud to announce the TV show, titled "Khloe and Lamar" has officially released its trailer.

In the opening credits, Odom dribbles a basketball while being defended by Kardashian as the pop music blares. Odom executes a spin move and reverse dunk -- clearly Kardashian's lateral quickness is not where it needs to be -- but then immediately returns to Kardashian, who playfully slaps him in the face. He responds by throwing the basketball away over his shoulder so that he can smooch with his bride. Is this meant to be a metaphor for his life? A visual representation of a realignment of his priorities? Lakers fans can only shudder.

Anyway, here's the trailer courtesy of Ryan Seacrest on YouTube.



The show starts in April. From the looks of it, this could be the greatest thing to happen to every team in the league not named the Los Angeles Lakers.
Posted on: March 31, 2011 4:01 pm
Edited on: April 1, 2011 1:08 am
 

Lamar Odom was the total sixth man this season

Posted by Royce Young

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Like most of the others, the Sixth Man Award is pretty vague. Is it for a player that actually is the sixth guy in the rotation? Is it for a bench player, exclusively? Can a guy that started almost half his team's games win it?

According to the rules, yes. To be eligible, you just have to come off the bench more games than you started. Lamar Odom is just barely eligible (34 starts, 39 off the bench). But in a way, that's one of the best parts of his Sixth Man resume.

Odom has filled in everywhere this season for the Lakers. Power forward, center, small forward. The guy is maybe the most versatile player in the league. And it's not like he's done a good job. He's done a fantastic job.

At 14.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per game on nearly 54 percent shooting (almost 60 percent true shooting, the highest of his career) and a PER of 19.88, Odom might be having his best, most efficient season of his career.

He's always been sort of the X-factor for the Lakers because of his unique skillset. And he's always been very good for them in whatever role he's used. But his main issue has been consistency. This season, he's been reliable almost every single night. When that happens not only is he one of the most dynamic players in basketball, but the Lakers are maybe the toughest team to beat.

Look at what he did in the World Championships in Turkey. Playing as one of the only big men on the United States roster, Odom was absolutely vital to the team bringing home gold for the first time in 16 years. His value to a team can't be understated. Things like points and rebounds per game don't often do him justice. Most felt Odom was an All-Star snub for his efforts this season, despite his apparently "low" numbers.

Not that his numbers are bad, though. He's second in scoring off the bench and first in rebounds. He's 10th in the entire league in field goal percentage and among power forwards (if that's what he even is), he's fifth in assists per game. However you cut it, Odom has had a great year.

There are other very nice candidates, no doubt. Jason Terry of course, Jamal Crawford, Thaddeus Young, Glen Davis and a few others. Sixth Man is sort of one of those hard to figure awards because you have to try and measure production versus impact off the bench versus value to the team versus other intangibles. What separates Odom, for me, is that he encapulates everything you want in a role player. Able to step in and start three positions. Able to play in crunch time. Able to take over a game on his own, if needed. And always productive. Checks across the board.

That's not always been the case for Odom as when his career wraps, I think we'll all look at his incredibly unique skills and ability and wonder if he underachieved. I don't necessarily see it that way -- especially these last few seasons with the Lakers -- because fitting in next to Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol is hard. Really hard.

NBA Awards
For guys like Terry and Crawford, they basically know what they're called on to do. Terry is to play second fiddle to Dirk and score in bunches. Same for Crawford off the Atlanta bench. But Odom has to manage how he fits next to being productive. That's really, really challenging. And a reason stats don't always tell the story.

Odom really feels like the one player out of this group that if you subtracted him, his team would be cost a substantial number of wins. I really think he's that valuable to what the Lakers do. Just the options he gives Phil Jackson late in games to match up or create mismatches with.

Really, the best argument there is right now as to why not to vote for Odom is because he started so many games. As long as he's within the rules, it doesn't matter to me and again, I kind of like that. Like I said, being the type of play that's able to fill in wherever is needed is what makes a great sixth man.

Being a bench player is something Odom has said is sort of hard for him to grasp, because he knows how good he is. He was the No. 4 overall pick of the Clippers in 1997 and has the ability to start for basically everyone.

"At first, it was hard for me," Odom told reporters recently. "From a business standpoint, the year Phil wanted me to come off the bench was my free agent year. You know how that goes. When you're a free agent, you want to start and play as many minutes as you can. But it was the right decision.

"As a sportsman, you're used to starting," he continued. "I used to be one of the guys and go to guys on the team. I'd be lying if I told you it didn't. I'll be honest with you, a little bit. I've always started for every team I was on and was one of the first three options."

And that sort of mentality is exactly what makes a guy a great team player and a great sixth man. A lot of guys with the kind of profile Odom has and talent aren't willing to sacrifice minutes and a starting spot. Odom is, while still playing at one of the highest levels he ever has.



Posted on: March 31, 2011 11:47 am
Edited on: March 31, 2011 11:54 am
 

Lakers wary of Grizzlies, Blazers in playoffs

An informal poll of the Lakers shows they're concerned about the Grizzlies and Blazers. As much as they're going to be concerned about anyone. 
Posted by Matt Moore




Asking NBA players who they want to see in the first round is pointless. Why would you possibly say you want to see one team, giving them material to mount an incomparable emotional challenge based off the oldest of athlete emotions: pride? Why would you possibly indicate that you don't want to see a team in the first round, giving them a mental edge when they recognize that you're "afraid" of them? There's nothing to be won or negotiated with that question. It's better to deflect or give the standard array of non-answers everyone gives. 

But the Lakers, when presented with the opportunity to give an informal poll, their answers unattributed to their name? They bit. 

From the Los Angeles Times
Based on the four players who were willing to trade their honesty in exchange for anonymity, three of them equally expressed concern about Portland and Memphis, while one other believed the Grizzlies would be the toughest opponent. Meanwhile, Lakers executive Magic Johnson spoke pretty frankly before the Lakers' 102-84 victory Sunday over New Orleans about which potential first-round opponent would give the Lakers the most trouble: Portland, because of the "hate factor," he said.

"They don't like us and we don't like them," Johnson said Sunday, walking in a corridor underneath Staples Center. "That would be a very physical and tough series, even though we would win and we're better overall. But they really know how to play us; they're well-coached and they're tenacious."
via Lakers informal poll reveals their belief Portland and Memphis would give them biggest challenge in first round | Lakers Blog | Los Angeles Times.

It's surprising that the Lakers chose to answer the question. It's more surprising that they were honest. It's even more surprising that they were correct. 

The Lakers are rarely if ever beasts in the first round. It takes them a few games to hit the playoff gear. But they're still good enough to overcome obstacles. Still, if you're going to upset L.A., it's going to have to be in that first round. From then on out, they're in that mode they have that that, you know, wins championships. And the only thing they hate more than getting their playoff effort in gear is having to do so against a scrappy, high-effort team, like the Blazers or Grizzlies. 

The Blazers, despite a much longer rivalry and a superior record, actually suffers more in the matchup. Despite LaMarcus Aldridge's superb and All-Star-worthy season, it's Zach Randolph's gritty, ugly, "how did he do that" work down low that is particularly effective against L.A.'s enormous size and length advantage. Marc Gasol is outplayed by his brother in the stats department because Pau Gasol is very good. But it's Marc's bulk and toughness that gives the Lakers issues, along with his ability to pass from the post and high pinch post. Mike Conley slices and dices Derek Fisher, one of the few guards in the league who can't torch Conley on perimeter drives. And the Grizzlies have enough wings to throw at Kobe Bryant to at least have a puncher's chance at slowing him down.

The Blazers on the other hand have Camby and Aldridge, but struggle defensively against the Lakers in matchups, as has been evident this year. But there's no matchup that accounts for the Blazers' ability to rise to the occasion, which they've illustrated time and time again during Nate McMillan's tenure. Either team is simply going to be a major headache that could turn into a legitimate challenge for the Lakers if a few things go their opponents' way. 

But then, the Lakers also know that if they play their best, execute, and focus, they're going to roll. That's what good teams do in the first round, it's really what great teams do in the first round, and it's definitely what championships do in the first round. This doesn't mean that the Lakers are afraid of the Blazers or Grizzlies, just that they recognize the dangers those teams represent. 

Which of course means that the Lakers are not afraid of the New Orleans Hornets. Who they could very well see in the first round. Chances are the Hornets use that as some motivation should the two meet in the first round. 

This is why you don't answer the question.
 
 
 
 
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