Lamar Odom Returns to LA as Prodigal Son

By Paul Hazard

The Los Angeles Clippers welcomed home their prodigal son this week in an attempt to find value in a player once  considered the face of the Clippers’ franchise when drafted out of Rhode Island in 1999.  The 6’10 power forward with point guard vision and a versatile inside-outside game was supposed to dominate as the Clippers reincarnation of Magic Johnson, or at the very least, a poor man’s Scottie Pippen.  Theoretically, Lamar was supposed to represent the new age versatility of the NBA big man going into the 21st century, as he was a “3” man who doubled as a point forward.  Instead, Lamar left the Clippers and took his talents to South Beach, as the Clippers allowed this restricted free agent to walk, instead choosing to hang onto such NBA legends (used loosely here) as Darius Miles Michael Olowokandi, Corey Maggette, and Elton Brand.  While Lamar played well for the Heat in his only season, he was better known for being the key linchpin in the Shaquille O’Neal blockbuster trade that brought the Heat a championship.  Eventually Odom found some maturity, the proper role and the right coach (system) in Phil Jackson.  In the triangle offense, Odom found himself in the right place at the right time, as his skill-set was validated and his unselfish play was lauded.  His efforts off the bench helped the Lakers capture two World Championships with Lamar being showered with praise and appreciation.

In his second go-around with the Clippers, Lamar is going to be looked at to be a facilitator of the offense, hit open jumpers, defend longer “3s” and possibly some “4s”.   Odom should get a comfortable 24-30 minutes off the bench relieving Caron Butler and Blake Griffin, and he should be the anchor of the 2nd unit.  With his wife Khloe Kardashian back in LA, and with some personal issues hopefully behind him, Lamar should be rejuvenated in his 2nd stint.  To be fair, in Dallas, Lamar was never able to become pure with the game of basketball; as he was distracted by an off-season of personal tragedy, and couldn’t shake his personal funk.  We like our athletes to compartmentalize everything, but Lamar wears his emotions on his sleaves, and he was wounded spiritually last year. (Not to play the pity card too hard; did Lamar offer back his salary to the Mavs for his inability to focus?  No.  I only ask that you consider his head was not in the right frame of mind to play basketball due to outside reasons).

A productive Lamar Odom would be he could be a release valve for Chris Paul.  With Lamar able to handle the ball and get into the Clippers sets, Paul could now can be freed to either run off screens, be used as a decoy, and utilize his basketball IQ and play off the ball.  This was how the Clippers envisioned Chauncy Billups’ role before he was lost for the season due to injury.  Now Coach Vinny Del Negro can have Odom as his defacto point guard when they need to move Paul around to counter a hard trap at the top of the key (off a pick-and-roll) late in the 4th quarter.

The Clippers aren’t expecting a career year or even one of Lamar’s better seasons, but want him to be productive.  In case you forgot how valuable Odom can be:

2004: 17.1 points, 9.7 rebounds with 4.1 assists per game

2008:  14.2 points, 10.7 rebounds with 3.5 assists per game

2011:  14.4 points, 8.6 points, with 3.0 assists per game (6th man of the year campaign).

If Lamar could give the Clips 10 points, 7 boards and 3 assists per game, it would be a tremendous boon for the Clippers, as he would give Coach Vinny Del Negro some much needed flexibility in the 4th quarter on both sides of the ball.

The Candy Man’s return is an exciting one for Clippers Nation and it should be a very successful one as long as he (and his wife) come focused and ready to go.

Follow me on Twitter @Clippersnation1 and @Coachhaz.

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