Being asked to change his role more so than any other Laker despite being in a contract year didn’t limit the production of Lamar Odom in a terrific 2008-09, who ultimately played a major role in L.A.’s championship.
Though Odom ended up starting 32 games when Andrew Bynum went down with a torn MCL midway through the season, Odom primarily served as the most effective and versatile bench player in the league, giving L.A. a marked advantage with matchups regardless of which opponent lined up against the purple and gold.
Odom’s numbers didn’t tell the true story of his contribution, but were impressive nonetheless. In the regular season, Odom averaged 11.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.99 steals and 1.26 blocks on 49.2 percent from the field in 29.7 minutes. In the postseason, Odom upped his averages to 12.3 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.70 steals and 1.35 blocks in 32.0 minutes, while improving his three-point shooting percentage from 32 percent in the regular season to a team-high 51.4 percent in the playoffs, including his back-to-back threes in the third quarter of Game 5 of the Finals that cut Orlando’s comeback attempt.
Of course, much of the discussion in Odom’s exit interview dealt with his pending free agency. Here’s a summary:
- Odom began by saying that his exit interview with Mitch Kupchak and Phil Jackson went well, and didn’t have much to do with basketball. He said that he hoped his contract negotations would go in similar fashion, and take no longer than 20 minutes. His mind is on returning to the Lakers, be he acknowledged that he’ll just have to wait and see how negotiations go.
- Lamar said felt good about his game: “I did my job this year – come off the bench, do whatever it takes. If I had to play well, I played well, when we had to win, we won.”
- He said: “The best thing about winning a championship is you feel like you can win another one.”
- When asked what he might do if it comes down to more money somewhere else vs. less to stay in L.A.: “It’s always difficult … But at the end of the day I have to make the decision that’s best for my family. Not so much for myself but for my family. I own a home, own a car, everything I do now is for my kids.”
- Odom remains fatigued in general but has really enjoyed the outpouring of support from Lakers fans: “I’m still emotional right now. I’m tired as hell. One of the reasons I’m tired is probably because I’m so emotional. We accomplished a lot … And the parade, to be going through what we’re going to. It’s crazy. You go to a restaurant everyone stands up. You go to the super market and everyone’s clapping. It’s crazy.”
- Going to another team and starting doesn’t make a difference to Odom, who said he “Won my first championship coming off the bench.”
- On what sense he got from talking to Phil and Mitch: “We hardly talked about basketball. That’s a good sign. We took care of what we needed to on the court. They just wanted me to stay in shape.”
- And the funniest quote of the exit interviews so far: “I’m decent looking and when we go out, I’m well received. You know. They want me to take care of myself and sleep correctly, stay in the weight room. That means they want me back.” To translate, apparently Mitch and Phil were more concerned that Odom maintains his basketball shape this offseason than anything.
- Odom got his teammates a gift but didn’t want to elaborate on what it was other than explaining it was a beverage of sorts.
- He said that next season, with this Lakers roster, he expects to play more point guard and more small forward, a nod to the fact that Andrew Bynum will surely play more minutes.
- When asked about his improved three-point shooting, Odom said this: “Every time I work myself out or a big man work out I feel like I can get better at the game, and this year I shot the ball a lot better from three.” In the playoffs, anyway, that was very true.
- He said his biggest contribution was providing energy for the team: “Getting them revved up and ready to play defense. When I get going, the guys feed off it.”
- On keeping him and Trevor: “I don’t know how the books look. It’s important, we want to keep the team together. We just won a championship. You don’t want to see one piece not there if you can help it, but it’s the business.”