According to multiple reports, (Marc Spears had it first, Marc Stein confirmed) new head coach Doc Rivers and other members of the front office of the Los Angeles Clippers met with Lamar Odom for two hours on Friday. Odom was a member of the Clippers last season, their first big off the bench, and their best front court defender -- if he could be that again, it would help to address the most glaring weakness of an otherwise very solid Clippers team. No deal is imminent, but several people involved seem to feel that it's only a matter of time before Odom re-joins the Clippers.
Odom had a very bad off-season, to say the least. Being married to a Kardashian (not to mention a veteran of a reality TV show from that marriage) puts you in the spotlight regardless -- when allegations of marital infidelity and drug use enter the picture, that spotlight gets pretty blinding. No one can say for certain how many of the rumors about Lamar Odom were true this summer, but we know he was arrested for a DUI, and we can be pretty sure that some bad stuff happened.
Lamar was probably always in the Clippers' off-season plans -- which may explain why they moved on a scoring big like Byron Mullens early in the off-season. When the Clippers finally pulled the trigger on a contract for Antawn Jamison, it was most likely a fallback after having moved on from Odom -- his problems at the time were just too big to ignore. But from a roster-building standpoint, they always wanted the same Lamar they had last year to be a part of this season's team.
Playing for the Clippers last year Lamar was nowhere close to his Sixth Man of the Year form on the offensive end -- in fact, he was pretty dreadful at around 40% from the field -- but he was as good as or better than he's ever been on defense and rebounding; two elements that the Clippers lack almost completely with their current backup bigs. Odom is something of a defensive savant -- he's crazy long, and he doesn't ever look like he's working that hard, but he is almost always in the right position to make a play because of his preternatural feel for the game. He could be very good -- make that scary good -- in Rivers' strong side defensive schemes. Really, from a defensive standpoint he's the closest thing to Kevin Garnett this side of Kevin Garnett.
It's no real surprise that these discussions are going on. If we assume that LO still wants to play professional basketball, all you have to do is look at the benches of several supposed contenders the Clippers have played recently to know that teams would be interested. In fact, the story of the season league-wide really could be "where are the back up bigs?" The Clippers' depth at the 4 and 5 is absolutely frightening -- but it's hardly worse than the Rockets or the Wolves or the Heat or the Thunder. Contending teams like nothing more than to bring in a veteran big later in the season -- it saves them some money, while saving the player's legs for the games that count. Lamar is clearly on the radar.
If he wants to play, and there are teams interested, the Clippers probably always had the advantage for a few reasons -- it's L.A., the city where Odom has made his NBA home for 12 of his 14 seasons and the only place where he's been really successful as a player in over a decade, and the Clippers are a contender while the Lakers are not. There's little question that a featured role off the bench for the Clippers is more attractive than starting for the Lakers at this point in time, and it's hard to imagine Lamar playing anywhere but L.A. after his troubles in Dallas two seasons ago.
The elephant in the room here of course is the allegations of drug use over the summer. NBA teams love talent over almost anything, but they will need to have some reason to believe that Lamar has gotten clean and will stay that way (or perhaps to believe that the reports were never true to begin with, but they'd be pretty gullible to believe that) before they will bring him into a locker room.
A less vexing issue is the fact that Odom has never been much of an off-season worker and has generally "played his way into shape" after the season starts. That approach is completely at odds with the way his potential suitors are going to want to approach this -- they want to know that he's serious and ready to contribute now, before taking the risk to give him a contract. Supposedly he's working out in order to expedite a comeback -- if he's serious about it and can get himself into great shape, that would be a very positive sign.
A few things need to fall into place of course; but given the needs of the team, and presuming a desire on Lamar's part, it seems like that Lamar Odom will join the Clippers at some point this season. If he can still defend and rebound the way he did last season -- and even if he's a year older, he's still long and he's still smart -- then it would be a great addition to the team.