Lakers’ power forward Lamar Odom has been an enigma ever since he arrived in the NBA from the University of Rhode Island.
At 6-foot-10, and a wingspan to match, Odom was seen as the next Earvin “Magic” Johnson, but hasn’t always delivered the goods. He’s been inconsistent, and that’s frustrated some.
Then again, there have been times when Odom has resembled Johnson, a one-time Michigan State star, and the Lakers’ emotional and floor leader during the 1980’s Showtime Era when the team collected five banners.
When Odom’s on top of his game, everything seems effortless, whether following up a missed shot, pulling down a rebound, or leading the fast break.
Odom, who was drafted fourth overall by the Clippers, and once played for the Miami Heat, has the necessary tools to be one of the top 15 or 20 players in the league.
Right now Odom is coming off the bench, has also been a starter, and is living up to his vast promise. Along with shooting guard Kobe Bryant, and power forward/center Pau Gasol, they have powered the Lakers to the NBA Finals a second straight season after shredding the pesky, stubborn and physical Denver Nuggets in six games of the Western Conference finals.
The end came last Friday night at the Pepsi Center, as the Lakers, who have reached the finals a record 30th time, handed the Nuggets a 119-92 drubbing, with the “Big Three” combining for 75 points.
Seeking their 15th title, the Lakers will play the Orlando Magic, which pushed aside the overall top-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers in six games of the Eastern Conference finals. Game 1 begins Thursday night at the Staples Center, and will be televised on ABC.
After the visiting Nuggets claimed Game 2 with a late rally, 106-103, most felt the series would be extended the full seven games.
Odom, who has averaged 15.1 points and 8.8 rebounds over his nine-year career, hit seven of 12 shots from the field and scored 20 points with eight rebounds in the clincher, as the Lakers performed like surgeons.
Clean and efficient, the Lakers led by five points after one quarter, and extended the lead to 13 points at the intermission. The No. 1 seeded team in the Western Conference, the Lakers were in control, 83-67, after three quarters.
The dagger was a Game 5 triumph two nights earlier. In that tight and emotional affair, the Lakers prevailed, 103-94, with Odom tallying 19 points and 14 boards, backing the play of Bryant, who scored 22 points with eight assists, and Gasol, who pumped in 14 points with 10 rebounds.
Game 1 at the Staples Center came down to the wire, and was saved when small forward Trevor Ariza stole a pass intended for shooting guard Chauncey Billups. The Lakers held on for a 105-103 win.
Bryant scored a game-high 40 points, Gasol added 13 points and 14 caroms, while Odom tallied seven points with eight rebounds.
Point guard Derek Fisher tossed in 13 points with six assists, and Ariza chimed in with six points and five rebounds for the Lakers, who outscored the Nuggets by four points in the fourth quarter after falling behind in the opening quarter, 31-23, and then taking a 55-54 lead after two quarters.
Odom and the Lakers are both seeking redemption.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a contributor to trufanboxing.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.