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2012-2013 Clipper Player Previews: Lamar Odom

For three weeks this preseason, we'll be publishing Player Previews for each of the 15 players currently under contract with the Clippers. In some cases there may not be much difference from last season's Exit Interviews, but the team does have seven new faces, and there were some significant developments over the off-season for some of the returning players as well, so let's get caught up with all of them before the season starts. Today's edition, the Clippers other former Sixth Man of the Year Lamar Odom.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Lamar Odom career stats (13 seasons)











Lamar Odom originally came to the Los Angeles Clippers as a first round (fourth player selected) in the 1999 draft. As a rookie and in the first four seasons with the Clips, Clipper fans were delighted by this six foot ten, charming, somewhat goofy New Yorker. He was a natural basketball player who looks like he was born with a ball attached to his arm. He was long and lean and muscular, who could handle the ball despite his length. Never a great long range shooter, he more than made up for it by his canny ability to dish, get to the rim, and facilitate his teammates. In his prime he proved to be one of the most flexible big men in the game.

But after four years with the Clips, and after Odom sat out much of the 2003 season on a drug suspension, the Miami Heat signed him to a free agent offer sheet. Odom made it clear that he wanted to leave the Clippers, that he considered his "destiny" elsewhere, and wanted to play for his hero Pat Riley. The Clippers, seemingly wounded by Odom's ungrateful attitude... declined to match the Heat's offer and allowed Odom to walk. (Of course Odom's hero obviously didn't feel the same pang of affection and "destiny" and abruptly traded Odom away just a year later.)

Of course, bygones shall be bygones. It's not 2003 anymore, and even more obviously, it's not 2011 anymore, the year Odom became the NBA Sixth Man of the Year for the Los Angeles Lakers. That was of course, just the season before last. He had his best year as a pro. He played 82 games, averaged 32 minutes, 14.4 points, and 8.7 rebounds. His PER fell just shy of 20. Most importantly he averaged .382 from the 3 point line.

Unfortunately, last year, after a strangely-motivated trade to the Dallas Mavericks, Odom took a bitter fall in statistics and ability. He averaged just 6 points and 4 rebounds and average just 20 minutes in 50 games.

So how does Lamar Odom fit on this year's Clippers? The better question which Lamar are we getting? A lot has been written about Odom's lack of conditioning when he arrived in training camp earlier this month. He's thirty-two years old and you'd like to see reporting in good shape... but let's ignore that for a moment and assume that he returns to reasonable basketball shape. Maybe it won't be 2011 form, but that he gets to 80 or 90 percent of that level. Even this somewhat diminished Odom, as the first big off the bench, will certainly fit well right behind Blake Griffin. And he'll fit rather well with the deep, revived Clipper second unit (hard to tell who'll regularly be on that unit, but start with Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill, and Matt Barnes and go from there).

Odom's size and rebounding will be sorely needed. If, as expected, Coach Vinny Del Negro chooses to go with a smaller lineup when DeAndre Jordan sits (it's hard to forget that Jordan averaged only 27 minutes last year). Odom (and Griffin) will likely see extended minutes at the center spot. But that's a better situation than seeing Reggie Evans or Kenyon Martin play center last year. Even the less-than-perfect Lamar has more basketball skills, offensively and defensively, than either one of those guys.

All this is good, because to my mind, Del Negro's major quest this year is to hand out lots and lots of DNP's to the other, lesser backup bigs, Ryan Hollins and Ronny Turiaf. Of course, unfortunately, the converse is also true: If Odom doesn't return to form, or if there's a lingering injury among the Clipper's big men (Griffin, Jordan, or Odom), the next two guys are not gonna be much help at all.

So... we know this isn't the same Lamar Odom who left twelve years ago... and it's also unlikely he's the 2011 Odom either. But can he give the Clippers 20 to 30 solid minutes a night? If he can, and he can come close to the 12/9 steadiness he delivered for the Lakers for five years, then the Clippers could be really really good. If he can't?

That's one too many questions.