Pining for Lamar

30 07 2009

Lamar Odom holds the Larry O_Brien trophy We can all likely agree that greed is partly a by-product of success. Whenever one’s favorite sports team (Lakers!!) wins a championship, there’s a celebratory grace period which ends only when the realization of a second title begins to whet the appetite. As a Lakers fan, I can vouch for that mindset. It’s been exacerbated by the continuing uncertainty regarding the composition of next season’s Lakers roster.

I still haven’t warmed to the idea of Ron Artest replacing Trevor Ariza. A brief read through the Sports Guy’s latest column re-emphasized my anxiety of losing Ariza. Bill Simmons hit the nail on the head when he explained Artest simply isn’t the perimeter defender he once was. He’s nearly 30, has lost some athleticism and, more than anything, he’s living off the reputation he gained as THE premier NBA defender in his mid-20s.

Ariza is 24, is discriminating enough in his shot selection to make him a perfect complement to Kobe Bryant and he gave the Lakers a measure of foot speed which the team no longer has outside of Jordan Farmer and possibly Shannon Brown.

But I can live with Artest-for-Ariza if that’s the only major change to the roster. That’s why the possibility of losing Lamar Odom is enough to make me question whether Dr. Jerry Buss has lost his mind as the Lakers’ owner. It’s hard to question the credibility of an owner who’s presided over nine Lakers championships, but he might be taking his pride too far in Odom’s negotiations.

Why the Lakers are quibbling over an extra year of Odom is beyond me. His value to the team is unquestioned. He’s also working toward turning 30, yet his game is more fluid and his presence is more valuable closer to the basket. He would make the bench once again the best in the league. There’s no other 6’10 left-handed player who can rebound the ball, drive it to the hoop and shoot it from long range with such consistency. His versatility has been well documented.

Moreover, Odom takes pressure off Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. They don’t feel as though that they have to record 20/10 games, given that Odom is there to clean up — and perhaps take over — whenever needed. 

His persona as the nicest guy on the team, a glue guy, can’t be underestimated. I already worried how losing Ariza would affect a Lakers squad which had seemed to grow quite close, no matter how much the Celtics-worshipping Sports Guy would like to convince his readers otherwise. Signing Odom doesn’t just mean you get the on-court version, but also the off-court guy who’ll resolve team disputes, help motivate down-on-their-luck players and keep Artest somewhat grounded (with help from Bryant and Phil Jackson).

The Miami Heat seem to be the only other realistic team to which Odom will fly. And given how much he’s publicly stated that he loves living in L.A., it could be all but a certainty that he returns. Yet considering how desirable it is to see the Lakers remain atop the NBA as league champions next year, ensuring Odom’s presence on the roster is the only Lakers topic in which I’m interested. Hopefully Dr. Buss and the rest of Lakers management take that worry off the minds of all us Lakers fans.

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2 responses

30 07 2009
Chris

I just can’t see the Lakers being so stubborn that they’d let him go. It’d be ridiculous. They really need to make nice, laugh off the pulled offer and get his ass on board.

Dear Buss: Rings > Ego

30 07 2009
kylestackblog

YES! The defense of the title officially begins.

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