Odom’s Versatility a Key for USA

61139458With an advanced skill set almost entirely unique to his 6-10 frame, Lamar Odom has made himself indispensable to the Lakers, a player capable of offering a motley crew of functions critical during two straight championship runs.

Rebounding at both ends? Check. Passing? Check. Scoring from the post or on the perimeter? Perhaps not consistently, but sure. Defense on bigs in the paint? Yup. Defense on the perimeter? Indeed. Ball-handling, shot blocking, creating turnovers with steals, or locker room humor? You got it.

But unlike teammates Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, Odom’s never won a gold medal on the international level*, something he’d like to remedy with team USA at August’s World Championships in Turkey, no matter where he plays.
*Odom played for the (disappointing) bronze-medal winning team at the 2004 Olympics.

61139451“I don’t have a true position,” he told NBA.com’s John Schuhmann while in Las Vegas for USA camp. “Whatever you need me to do. If this was baseball, they would call me a utility guy.

“I’ve always looked at basketball like that. Do as many things as possible. That way you can help the team. What about if you’re off shooting? You’ve got to rebound, still defend. That’s the game of basketball.”

Such words are familiar to anyone who’s listened to Odom speak in a basketball setting.

And while playing just 16 minutes in a Saturday evening intrasquad scrimmage in Vegas, Odom’s final line showed him to be doing a bit of everything, even as he was obviously playing himself back into basketball shape: 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 points, 1 steal, 1 block.

With the Lakers, Odom is almost always flanked by Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol, but for the U.S., he started at center, a relative term at least to a degree in international basketball. The style of play and wider lane make it more difficult for post play, and since the remaining true centers on the team – Tyson Chandler, Brook Lopez and JaVale McGee – have less experience and versatility than L.O., he seems almost a certainty to make the squad.

The roster of 19 players is set to be cut to 14 or 15 by Monday in advance of training camp – opening Aug. 10 in New York – for the world championships.

Stay tuned until Monday afternoon, when we’ll be posting a podcast with Schuhmann detailing the rest of Odom’s week in Vegas.