Let me preface all of this by saying that I like Lamar Odom. He's a good dude. Been a guest on the Mason & Ireland Show many times, and I understand that he has been dealing with a significant back injury.
But after Game 4 of the Nuggets/Lakers series, I called him "The Invisible Man." Lamar came off the bench on Monday, a 120-101 blowout Laker loss at the Pepsi Center, played 30 minutes and scored just 5 points on 1-8 with 2 missed free throws. He had just 8 rebounds. Compare that to Nuggets super-sub Chris Birdman Anderson who came away with 14 boards in just 24 minutes.
I wasn't the only one critical of Odom. Ted Green, formerly of the LA Times and now Senior Sports Producer for KTLA Prime News wrote this in the Times' Fabulous Forum: "How in the name of purple and gold can a player with Lamar's length and basketball gifts be nearly useless in a critical playoff game? Did Chris Angel fly in from Vegas and make him disappear? Did Lamar think because the Lakers were up 2-1 on the road, having regained home-court advantage, that there was no need for urgency, thus he wouldn't play with any?"
Just when we think we know Lamar Odom, he turns into a game-changer. He "went off" in game 5 last night for 19 points with 14 boards, 3 assists and 4 blocks. He provided a team-best plus-minus of +18. For a night, the tantalizing talent, the extraordinary length, the enigmatic personality all came together for a head-turning performance and a big-time game. Why isn't "it" there all the time?
It's not necessarily his candy addiction, now documented in a feature story on ESPN....
But it may be in his post-game press conference from Wednesday night....
This 30-year-old man has "a focus cap?" It's cute and funny and charming and totally Lamar, but dumb question here, "Why isn't he always wearing it?" Come to think of it, there are lots of school kids who are addicted to candy and need to wear their "focus cap" more.
Lamar is an unrestricted free agent this summer. What is the going rate for a guy like him on the open market? Here are some of last summer's free agent contracts. Emeka Okafor got a 6yr-$72M extension from Charlotte (a lot to pay for rebounds and blocked shots) and Luol Deng received a ridiculous 6yr-$80M extension from Chicago. Atlanta matched Memphis' offer of 5yrs-$55M for Josh Smith, but he's a lot younger than LO. The contract to look at as a pretty good benchmark is Corey Maggette, who is Odom's age, and signed a 5yr-$50M contract with the Warriors.
He's been a good soldier. He graciously accepted his role as 6th man in his free agent year, and his overall regular season numbers took a significant hit (although he did move back into the starting lineup while Bynum was hurt).
2007-08 REGULAR SEASON
Lamar Odom - 38mpg - 14.2ppg - 52% from the field - 10.6rpg -16.9 PER
2008-09 REGULAR SEASON
Lamar Odom - 30mpg - 11.3ppg - 49% from the field - 8.2rpg - 16.5 PER
Those Player Efficience Ratings suggest that Lamar is about the same player and the decline in scoring and rebounding can be traced to fewer minutes per game.
Is Lamar a big-time player? I would argue that he's not. He is a big-time talent. He does have big-time skills. He just doesn't deliver consistently, and he seems to struggle when the game is on the line.
The excellent site 82Games.com keeps track of something called "Clutch Stats." They are keeping track of the numbers that a player generates in the 4th quarter or overtime with neither team ahead by more than 5 points. In other words, how does a player perform near the end of games when teams are separated by 2 possessions or less.
Here are the Top 5 "Clutch" Scorers in the 2008-09 NBA Regular Season
1. Kobe Bryant
2. LeBron James
3. Carmelo Anthony
4. Dwayne Wade
5. Chris Paul
112. Lamar Odom
Here are the Top 5 "Clutch" Rebounders in the 2008-09 NBA Regular Season
1. Dwight Howard
2. Marcus Camby
3. Andres Biedrins
4. Tim Duncan
5. Joachim Noah
60. Lamar Odom
Statistically, and I know the whole story doesn't necessarily show up in the box score, but Odom does not appear to be "Clutch." At least not consistently.
The most critical games of Lamar's career were the 6 against the Boston Celtics in last year's NBA Finals.
2008 FINAL - LAKERS VS. CELTICS
Game 1 - 39mp 14pts on 6-11 6reb 1ast 1stl
Game 2 - 32mp 10pts on 5-11 8reb 2ast 0stl
Game 3 - 28mp 4pts on 2-9 9reb 4ast 1stl 1blk
Game 4 - 39mp 19pts on 8-11 10reb 4ast 0stl 1blk
Game 5 - 41mp 20pts on 8-10 11reb 2ast 0stl 4blk
Game 6 - 40mp 14pts on 2-8 10reb 5ast 0stl
In 4 of the 6 games, he was under his scoring average for the regular season. He was under his season rebounding average in 5 of the 6 championship deciding contests. He was "The Invisible Man" in game 3 at Staple's (the Lakers were down 0-2 after losing a pair in Boston) and game 6 in Boston (the game that ended hopes for a parade down Figueroa).
I hope that Lamar Odom delivers another dominating performance in Game 6 in Denver, and I hope he performs consistently in the NBA Finals, but, if he pulls another disappearing act, for a game or a stretch of games, we cannot be surprised. As long as he's a Laker, Lamar Odom will always be the "The X Factor."
Regardless, with the price for Trevor Ariza and Shannon Brown likely going up (they're both unrestricted free agents) the chances that Lamar may be playing his final games as a Laker are also on the rise. Ariza has got to be priority #1, and if Odom commands anything close to Maggette's free agent deal, it's hard to imagine him returning.