Lamar Odom Poised to Return to Form After Being Reunited with LA CLippers

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterJuly 29, 2012

Photo via Assosciated Press
Photo via Assosciated Press

Pat Riley once said that Lamar Odom was the only player to come into the league who had the ability to play like Earvin (Magic) Johnson.

The 6'9" Johnson could not only rebound at a high level but was one of the best passers the game has ever seen.  Few have ever come close to the Hall of Famer's combined skill set, yet a great talent evaluator like Riley bestowed the honor of this compliment upon Odom.

For the first four years of his career with the Los Angeles Clippers, Odom averaged as high as 17.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game.  At 6'11", he could essentially play all five positions on the court if needed and displayed a silky smooth touch for someone his size.

This success carried over for years with the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers, where he blossomed into the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year in 2010-2011.

While the Lakers recognized Odom's value to their team, they also knew they needed an upgrade at the point guard position and had a chance to acquire arguably the best in the game.

In early December 2011, the Lakers, New Orleans Hornets and Houston Rockets agreed on a deal that would sent Chris Paul to L.A., with Odom heading to the Hornets.

The trade was shot down days later by David Stern, but it was enough to severely upset Odom, as he had called L.A. home for 11 of his 12 pro seasons.

Instead of putting up with a grumpy Odom, L.A. did what they thought was best and traded him to Dallas for nothing more than a trade exception and a protected first-round pick.

This is where the wheels fell off for Odom.

Everything that could have gone wrong for Odom and the Mavericks did, as he struggled through a lockout-shortened season plagued by inconsistent minutes, trying to continue his reality TV show and dealing with other off-the-court issues.

The numbers were ugly.  Very, very ugly.

With 6.6 points per game, 35 percent shooting from the field, 25 percent from three-pointers and a player efficiency rating of 9.32, to put it simply, both Odom and Dallas needed to part ways.

On June 30, they did just that, as Dallas traded Odom back to Los Angeles as part of a four-team deal that sent Mo Williams to the Utah Jazz.

So now Odom returns to his hometown and the team he originally began his career with.  Now a veteran of 13 years, he faces a new beginning to his career and the chance to once again prove himself as one of the top overall talents in the league.

Unlike last season, Odom is now set up to succeed.  There will be no lockout, no more being halfway across the country from his wife and, maybe most surprisingly, no more reality TV show.

Khloe and Lamar has been put on hold as Odom attempts to pick himself up from last season.  His focus appears to be on basketball, as it absolutely should be.

Lamar Odom returning to form may take some time.  After all, he'll be playing with a completely new team, one far more talented than the roster he found in Dallas last season.

At age 32, Odom still has plenty of good basketball left.  He's back in the city he loves, close to his wife, avoiding distraction and appears focused on being the basketball player he was the last time he suited up in L.A.

Pat Riley may have been right after all.