Lamar Odom Talks Team USA
SLAM catches up with LO at Shock the World 2010.
by Kyle Stack / @NYsportswriter
Back-to-back championships can put any player in a confident, relaxed mindset. That was the demeanor Lamar Odom exhibited when I spoke to him for a few minutes after he helped host Casio’s Shock The World event for its 2010 fall/winter line of watches in New York City on Monday night. (Odom serves as a Casio spokesman.) Of course, Odom is known for his laid-back disposition, which has helped fuel a career-long discussion of whether he can fulfill his immense basketball potential.
What can be said about Odom is that he’s a winner. He’s won two-straight NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers and he’s looking to win a gold medal with Team USA later this summer at the FIBA World Championship in Istanbul, Turkey. In the meantime, he’s getting ready to practice with Team USA in New York August 9-16, which includes an exhibition contest against France August 15 at Madison Square Garden. I talked with Odom about his thoughts on Team USA, the Lakers’ off-season acquisitions and what he said to Ron Artest after they won the Finals in June.
SLAM: Coach K got you in shape right now?
Lamar Odom: Yeah, it’s been a long season. Three of them in a row. I could use the whole USA process to get in shape for our season. Coach K is an incredible coach, very knowledgeable. I was surprised on how hip he was, how he understands the way we think, as a hip hop generation. But I shouldn’t have been surprised because he’s always around youth. He’s always around guys younger than me. He’s an amazing coach, an amazing person.
SLAM: What’s the difference between a Coach K practice and a Phil Jackson practice?
LO: I can’t say because I have never been coached by him in college. I’m pretty sure his college practices are a little different from how we practice [with Team USA]. We’ve had long seasons already where there’s 82 games, where there’s Playoffs, winning the championship. So we kind of got to get down to business, go over our plays, go over our sets exactly the way [Coach K] wants.
SLAM: What’s that challenge like in having to adjust to a new system in such a short timeframe?
LO: You can play in the Triangle, you can play in any system. [Laughs]
SLAM: What’s it like for you to be one of the veterans on Team USA?
LO: It definitely means I’m getting closer to the end than to the start. I mean, it’s fun. Sometimes as a 20-year-old we can’t see ourselves as a 30-year-old. It seems too far away. But it’s fun. It’s fun to watch the development of the youth and to go from the guy that’s always listening for advice to now being the guy that’s giving advice. Knowing how do it is fun to show your experience.
SLAM: Are some of the younger guys like [Andre] Iguodala or [Brook] Lopez asking you for advice?
LO: I think all of them do. They do in different situations. It might be an off-the-court situation, contractual, it might be in the club, wherever it may be. They all do it in their own way.
SLAM: What is your role on this team from strictly an on-court standpoint?
LO: Just play. The same way I fit on any team I’ve ever played on. Rebound, score — be a basketball player. Play the whole game.
SLAM: Has the team been able to find an identity so far?
LO: They will. Our identity is the best basketball players in the world — basic. And win.
SLAM: Have you sought advice, perhaps from Kobe based on his experience with this same Team USA coaching staff? Any advice from anyone else?
LO: I’ve been fortunate to be coached by Pat [Riley], Stan Van Gundy, Phil Jackson, Coach Krzyzewski, Larry Brown on the  USA team, Coach Popovich, so I know how to listen. I’m open always to being coached. You got coaches like Coach Krzyzewski, Nate McMillan, [Jim] Boeheim, Coach D’Antoni…it’s like you’re in a basketball library. From Coach McMillan it’s ‘Defense, defense, defense’ to Coach D’Antoni ‘Hurry up, take it out, run’ to Coach Boeheim with zone principles to Coach Krzyzewski who brings it together. Basketball is a game you can learn ’til you die.
SLAM: What is the difference being on this team versus the 2004 Olympics experience?
LO: Just where I’m at as a professional. I only played one time in the Playoffs when I was on the first team. Now I have two NBA titles, went to the Finals three times in a row. Just experience all around.
SLAM: It’s got to be special to represent your country in your home town.
LO: Yeah, we get to play here. That’ll be fun. Just being around the atmosphere and ambiance, all that. Just aside from playing, wearing the uniform, being on the court.
SLAM: Do you expect to be on the 2012 London team?
LO: I hope so. I hope it’s something I’ll be able to do. I’d like to represent the team. I’ll be 33, I look forward to it.
SLAM: How has winning these two titles changed you as a basketball player?
LO: I see the game a lot different. I know what’s important. There’s only one thing that’s really important and that’s winning. A lot of people say that but they might not be committed to it or they might not really mean it. There are a lot of guys who wouldn’t be able to start for nine seasons, 10 seasons then decide to come off the bench. But the only thing that’s important to me — in learning so much from Phil, from Kobe, even from Mr. [Jerry] Buss — is win. You see the game a lot different.
SLAM: What was that first conversation like with Ron [Artest] after you guys won the title?
LO: I just told him ‘I told you.’ We were talking in the summertime [last year] and of course he had different offers for more money and more years. I just told him that if you come, we’re going to be playing for the championship and that’s something that he should experience. People don’t understand how much work he puts into the game, being one of the best defenders ever, but being one of the best defenders that can score over 15, 20 points. He’s one of the best basketball players in the history of the game. He needed to experience playing for a championship.
SLAM: With the acquisitions of [Matt] Barnes, [Steve] Blake, Theo [Ratliff], what do the Lakers have now that they didn’t have last season?
LO: I wouldn’t say ‘have now that we didn’t have’ — I would say ‘added.’ Because we won the championship, you know? We won tough games. And I think Theo Ratliff and Matt Barnes will add to that. Just winning the 85-80 game, the game that’s 91-87 with the way they played, their understanding for the game. The way they can help a team without needing a play ran for them. They’ll be perfect for us.