Los Angeles Clippers: Can Lamar Odom Bounce Back?

Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 27, 2012

Feb 3, 2012; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks power forward Lamar Odom (7) waits for play to resume during the game against the Indiana Pacers at the American Airlines Center. The Pacers defeated the Mavericks 98-87. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE

Lamar Odom played just over 1,000 minutes for the Dallas Mavericks last year, but to him, it must have felt like 1,000 years.

Odom appeared to be in utter agony during his abbreviated season with the Mavs. Known as a sensitive personality, he was deeply hurt by the Lakers' attempts to trade him for Chris Paul, and after he all but forced his way out of LA, his damaged emotional state clearly affected his play.

The previous season, 2011-2012, was Odom's worst season by an enormous margin. He shot an abysmal 35 percent from the field and saw his career average for rebounds cut in half—he pulled down just 4.1 per game. In every single statistical category, Odom was simply awful.

But a June trade liberated Odom from Dallas and returned him to the squad that originally drafted him in 1999—the Los Angeles Clippers. Now, back in Los Angeles and closer to the Kardashian circus he inexplicably married into, Odom should be happy—at least in theory.

Clippers fans have to wonder how much faith they can reasonably put in Odom, who at age 33 let a case of hurt feelings nearly derail his career. He's obviously got some maturity issues—even now—and his commitment to basketball can rightly be questioned, given the Kardashian media empire he's now a part of.

Red flags abound with Odom. But, there's reason to believe he might have something left in the tank.

For evidence, just look back to Odom's last season with the Lakers. In 2010-11, Odom actually had the best year of his career. His PER of 19.5 was a full point better than any other year of Odom's decade-long tenure in the NBA.


That lends some credibility to the theory that Odom's lost season in Dallas really was due entirely to factors outside of basketball. His precipitous statistical decline looks frightening on paper, but when you consider how excellent he was in the previous year, there's a pretty strong argument that Odom still had plenty of talent. He just wasn't in the right frame of mind to put it to use.

And in a strange way, Odom's terrible play last year may have given him some extra motivation to bounce back with the Clippers. Now, after a consistent string of stellar seasons, Odom actually has something to prove: He's got to show that his game hasn't abandoned him.

Make no mistake, the Clippers are taking a big risk by trusting Odom to play a significant role for them this year. Because now, when you get Lamar Odom, you also get a Kardashian reality TV circus.

Plus, it's possible he really has lost a step (or three). And maybe basketball simply isn't a priority for him anymore.

But, if Odom gives the Clippers something that looks more like it came from his years as a Laker and less like it came from his season in Dallas, he'll provide a major boost to a team built to win now.

Odom may never again be the player that he was for most of his career. As far as the Clippers are concerned, he just needs to avoid being the player he was last year.