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Lamar the Linchpin

Frazer Harrison

Maybe it's just a Club O thing, but I've been expecting Lamar Odom to resign with the Clippers, and I'm hoping that it's getting close. The latest news is that the Lakers signed Chris Kaman, who can be penciled in as a credible center to complement Pao Gasol. Lamar Odom would be a really good fit as a backup on that frontline (or a starter if--ahem--Kaman just happens to miss a little time). But the Lakers just gave Kaman a little extra money that might have gone to Lamar (I think--though maybe it's just the minimum's the minimum--but I believe the Lakers used their meager mini-zhiv-MLE or whatever on CK).

And I keep wondering why LO would possibly want to go back to the Lakers. Didn't they crush his soul just a couple of years ago? LO was a casualty of Laker financial bloat, more than anything else, even though the pretty ugly situation had a different spin in Lakerland--that he was horrified at potentially being part of a trade and he came in and demanded to go to another team. Whatever it was, somehow the Lakers benefited greatly by sending out his expensive deal, which they would have had to pay tax on for the last two years.

LO was happier coming back to LA, obviously. He had a really good year playing with the Clippers, although he had a molasses-slow start. Once he came to the gym, he started working and never stopped, but it was a long process. His shooting, confidence, free throws, going to the rim--it was all messed up but steadily improving throughout the entire season, and he was playing some of his best basketball, with some shots finally falling, in the playoffs. There was a moment towards the end (maybe game 4 or 5 of the Memphis series), when VDN was flailing, that LO had the look of a savior, but he was sent to the bench. Even so, we take what LO gave the Clips last year gladly.

Lots of changes and moves and progress in Clipperdom, a lot going down in the last few days. Most importantly, the Clippers have a new coach. That's a big upgrade, and a bunch of dominoes have fallen based on that push. CP is all in, with a longterm max deal. You know all of the other roster spots that have filled up in recent days.

Having that new coach would be a big item in a potential re-signing of LO by the Clippers. LO knows where he started coming to training camp last year, and he won't let that happen again. Perhaps that's the main question behind the fact that no deal has been made yet: that Doc and the Clippers want to get a commitment from LO that he is joining CP and BG and the rest of the team in July as they perform their rigorous preparation for the upcoming season. But my guess is that it's more of a pecking order/dominos type of thing, that they just didn't get to LO yet. As hard as it is to see or think of him as going back to the Lakers, if they could have made a better offer before they did the deal with Kaman, that was just something that had to play out--and perhaps it did, in the Clippers favor.

If Rivers is all that we think and hope he is, then he has a good handle on the LO situation, what he would bring to the team and how to use him, if he's got anything left in the tank or if a different player might be a better fit. LO got incredible slack, patience, and opportunities from VDN last year. A huge part of the problem was on LO's side and his glacially slow rise, but VDN also got horribly lost in his big man rotation for large chunks of the season, especially down the stretch and in playoff crunch time. So this year's version of the Clippers would be a better situation for LO--the Clippers are currently making all of the right moves and they will be a better team--and LO himself can bring a lot to the equation by working hard and staying focused and picking up where he left off. LO has the game and the roster slot and experience that he could play a crucial role in what promises to be an epic Clipper campaign this year. The status of this situation is probably something that Chris Paul and Rivers and others all know about, and it just happens to be beyond our own view at the moment. But it won't be that way for long, and Lamar Odom's choice here would play a significant role in tipping the scales further in favor of the Clipper side in the question of LA dominance. Either way, the Clips won't have any trouble handling the Lakers; the Clippers are a top tier team with a dynamic new coach, they were already in the top tier and they will be improved, while the Lakers will be deeply challenged. Yes, LO is something of a linchpin, but he wouldn't tip the scales towards the Lakers, certainly not with Kobe returning from such a severe late-career injury. Clipper fans know these things, we've seen these kinds of injuries and defections and setbacks, and we've carefully monitored a slim margin for error--we know how it goes, how it all plays out.

LO has a chance to join a potential championship team, and get another ring. And that's not going to happen on the Lakers.