Lamar Odom is Sick
Literally and figuratively, as of yesterday.
by Ryan McNeill / @ryanmcneill
Yesterday afternoon the media didn’t want to crowd too close to Lamar Odom after he admitted to playing through the game with some nasty flu symptoms that had him feeling nauseous for most of the game.
After he made this declaration, the media scrum that had formed a tight circle surrounding him took a step back as nobody wanted to spend the holidays suffering through the same symptoms that Odom just battled through a game against Toronto with.
As Odom used a towel to wipe the sweat off his head, he wasn’t able to hide a grimace after playing through one of his worst games of the season. However, even while battling the flu, Odom still managed to snatch seven rebounds and scored 11 points while going an efficient 5-9 from the field.
It turns out a flu has been the only thing to be able to slow Odom down this season as the points and rebounds he contributed during the win against Toronto are a far cry from the 16.0 points and 9.9 rebounds he is averaging so far this year.
“Some games he has carried us in scoring and most of the time he has carried us in rebounding,” Barnes bragged on Sunday afternoon. “He even helps us out with assists. He’s done everything. He is definitely an All-Star along with Pau (Gasol) and Kobe (Bryant) so I hope he gets recognized for that.”
It’s one thing for the new guy on the team to walk away impressed with Odom’s contributions, it’s another when two players that have known him for a long period of time echoed similar praise.
“Yeah, it is, for this long of a period and this long of a stretch.” Kobe Bryant admitted when asked if it’s the best he’s seen Odom play during the time that they’ve been teammates. “He’s really been locked in since training camp.”
Ron Artest was quick to echo these sentiments while grinning, “He’s playing like the Lamar Odom I grew up with. That’s the Odom I love playing with.”
Throughout his career Odom has been known as the versatile player who can do a lot of things well but not one single thing great. The problem with that kind of thinking is people tend to forget he has averaged double-figures in
rebounds twice during his time as a Laker and this year he is second on the team in rebounds with 9.9 per game.
By increasing his field goal percentage this season and showing a continued focus on cleaning the glass it’s helped round out his game.
“He’s a great rebounder,” Gasol said. “He’s got great timing. He’s always willing to stick his nose in there and he’s got great hands. He always does well throughout his career rebounding the ball so his average this year is nothing surprising at all.”
The ability to do a lot of things is nothing new—it’s his ability to hit his shots at a high rate that is catching the attention of opponents this season. Odom has made 46 percent of his field goals during his career but has bumped his field goal percentage up to a career-high 58 percent so far this season.
The only other time during his tenure in Los Angeles that he has shot better than 50 percent from the field was the 2007-08 season when he made 52 percent of his field goals.
According to Phil Jackson, his improved shooting is due to his return to the starting line-up.
“I think coming off the bench is a lot different for him,” Jackson explained. “As a starter he can choose what he wants to do. He can see open men, alley’s in transition and he gets a high precentage shot. He’s getting to the boards better. This all makes for easier shots.”
If starting makes the game easier for Odom, the tricky part for him to continue his success through to the end of the season is his ability to transfer his high level of play to a role coming off the bench. Andrew Bynum played his fourth game of the season this weekend in Toronto and once his knee allows him to log heavy minutes it’s understood he’ll regain his spot in Los Angeles’ starting five. Once that happens, it will be interesting to see if Odom can continue to play at the high level he has been playing at or if his field goal percentage and scoring average dips to the numbers he has posted the previous few seasons he has been forced to come off the bench.
Hopefully Odom’s able to make the adjustment to coming off the bench and the only thing that is able to slow him down this season are pesky speed bumps like the the flu.
Ryan McNeill is a freelance writer now in his fourth season covering the Toronto Raptors. Read more at HOOPSADDICT.com and follow him on Twitter.