When Lamar Odom was brought to the Lakers organization during the fire-sale after the '03-'04 season, he had a very clear role: The Scottie Pippen of the LA Lakers. He was supposed to be the 2 of the 1-2 punch that was intended to be Kobe and Lamar. He was seen as a physical specimen, an ideal mix of basketball ability and toughness. A true power forward.
Yet, as the next season went on, and the Lakers failed to make the playoffs, it was clear that this role was not suited for Lamar. The scouting report always seemed to come back that he was ideal, a perfect player to match up against some of the better power forwards in the league, including Garnett and Stoudemire.
However, when it came to head-to-head matchups, Lamar showed that he lacked on both sides of the ball and could never seem to get his head into the game.
Yes, Odom was the new scapegoat of the season. Not living up to his potential, the media took aim at his abilities, or apparent lack there of. He was forced to go through more than just one season of it as well. In fact, the constant trade rumors, and even calls from some fans in the "Ciudad" to simply wave his contract, would not subside for some time.
Then came the turn around the franchise was looking for. Andrew Bynum began to come into his true form, a double-double machine. Then the steal of the century from Mitch Kupchak, getting all-star Spaniard Pau Gasol for "cement hands" Kwame Brown.
No longer was Lamar the two of the one-two punch, and what happened? The unthinkable, Lamar started playing like we had been told he could play all along. No longer did Los Angeles require a 15-and-10 power forward from Rhode Island.
If Odom wasn't firing on all cylinders, then he could at least disrupt on the defensive end guarding a small forward. Yep, the pressure was off, and now, Lamar was on!
Now at the middle point of the '08-'09 season, Lamar's diminished role as a starter has become the role he was meant to play. In a way, a comparison can be drawn to San Antonio's Ginobli, a player who could start on almost any team in the NBA, a guy who can be trusted to run the offense, control the defense, and be a leader on the team.
Yet, where he is truly needed is as the sixth man. The abilities of a starter, coming in with the second unit and acting as a dominating force.
So what now? What does the city of Angels need from the 6'11" power forward? Simple, for him to continue to produce with the second unit, when all the pressure is theoretically off. Ideally, the major role needed for Lamar is on the boards and in the paint.
He needs to not only continue his physical play, but also keep his mental game up. Lamar has been known for making stupid mistakes (note passing the ball to Sasha Vujacic while he was standing out of bounds, or taking an inbound pass and walking across the time line to the back court, resulting in a back court violation).
Indeed, Los Angeles needs a 15-and-15 Lamar Odom if the team intends on bringing back the world championship to the city of Angels. It may seem like a lot, but if Lamar keeps his level of performance up, there should be no problem for him to start playing at an all-star level come Game One of the playoffs.
Hopefully, by the end of June, Lamar will have a new nickname, "Celtic Crusher!"