Lakers Reunite with Odom

There’s no question that the Lakers miss what Lamar Odom, traded to Dallas in the preseason, brings to the basketball court. Any team would. But as some of Odom’s old teammates explained at Sunday’s practice, they may miss Odom’s presence off the court even more.

Luke Walton, one of Odom’s best friends, explained why.

“This was family to him,” he said. “He’s a very caring person when it comes to the people he’s close to and he was close to a lot of people here.”

Walton has tried to connect with Odom over the phone, but quipped that Odom “doesn’t answer his phone,” well known to his friends. Yet he was the guy that kept the Lakers’ locker room loose, the proverbial straw that stirred the drink.

Last January, Walton told us in a feature story about Odom why he valued the friendship so much:

A few years ago, Walton lost a close friend from college, leaving him “all messed up in the head,” he said. Walton didn’t tell anybody about it, and says he was simply out of it. Odom approached him wanting to talk, but Walton wasn’t ready and continued to hold it in. Insistent, Odom pulled Walton aside, and eventually got Walton to join him for a beer to discuss whatever Odom sensed was bothering his buddy.

“He told me different personal stuff about his life, and by the time we got done hashing it out, I felt way better,” said Walton. “Lamar left, and I was just like, ‘Wow.’ He didn’t have to do that. I hadn’t even told him there was anything wrong with me. He just perceived how I was acting.

“For someone to go through as much as he has in his life, to still be that guy who is always smiling, always making sure other people are happy, really shows what kind of person he is.”

The Lakers and Mavericks tip off at 7:30 p.m. at STAPLES Center.