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Elastic Man

Posted by Mike on 6/14/2009 to Just Sports

He’s never been an All star, but Lamar Odom is one of those background NBA players who can really take over a game when he puts his mind to it. He’s not Superman. He’s not Flash. He’s the Elastic Man.

When he played for the Clippers, I disliked Lamar Odom. Part of that was probably because he came to the NBA from the University of Rhode Island where he played for Jim Harrick. And Jim Harrick had previously been at my cherished UCLA. Harrick led the Bruins to a national championship in 1995, but he quickly fell out of favor for in-game coaching blunders, and very few of the Bruin faithful were said to see him go.

The second part of my feeling against Lamar was because he played for the Clippers. I’m a Lakers guy, and several years ago, it was difficult to even tolerate the Clippers. So Lamar had two strikes of guilt-by-association going against hiim. And when he was spotlighted on the NBA radar for repeated violations of the anti-drug policy (which led to a suspension in 2001), he really fell from grace.  Now that didn’t mean I didn’t see his potential as a player; he just wasn’t a person I would ever put on my Christmas card list.

When he joined the Lakers in 2004, I had very mixed feelings.  Certainly, Shaq had to be dealt somewhere because his antics had grown old.  But it didn’t seem as if Miami had given us enough in return.  While I still think we should have held out for Dwayne Wade to be packaged in the trade, I eventually got over it. This was despite the fact that the Lakers would not play up to championship form over the next several years.

After the first month of the 2004-2005 season, as I was enjoying one of my Wednesday dinners with my youngest son, I took a bold step in a different direction. I proclaimed Lamar Odom as one of the most athletes in the NBA. He has length, agility, quickness, touch, and a feel for the game. He can drive, shash and score, rebound, shoot from outside, pass and defend. He’s a great team player, but his weakness is probably his unselfishness. And after watching him for a month in a Lakers uniform, I came not only to recognize and appreciate his skills more, but I came to like him as a person.

By all accounts, Lamar is a nice guy. It’s one thing to hear players and sports reporters say it, but it’s also something that’s easy to see yourself. In an interview, Lamar speaks honestly, openly and from his heart, with no worries about political correctness, and no need to spew forth cliches. It’s refreshing to hear a player acknowledge when he’s not playing well and what he needs to do to improve, just as it is appreciated when he recognizes the contributions of other players, whether they be teammates or opponents. He’s humble and polite. And he remembers his upbringing everyday by writing the initials of his grandmother (who raised him) and his infant son Jayden who died in June 2006.

He’s had a tough life, and a checkered career with flashes of greatness, but he always bounces back. When he feels the passion, feels the joy, he is truly unstoppable. His wingspan is far greater than normal for a person of his size, and sometimes it seems like his arms keep going and going and going as he stretches out to snare a rebound or push the ball to the basket. He bends, but doesn’t break. He’s the Elastic Man.

Of course, with his sweet tooth, Lamar might prefer to be called the Taffy Man.

Mike Lee