Lamar Odom's Lazy Approach to Conditioning Will Ruin His L.A. Clippers Return

Josh Martin@@JoshMartinNBANBA Lead WriterOctober 18, 2012

LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 18:  Lamar Odom #7  of the Los Angeles Clippers celebrates during the game against the Sacramento Kings on January 18, 2003 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. The Clippers won 112-107.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

It's time for the Los Angeles Clippers to temper their expectations for Lamar Odom this season.

That is, if he's as out of shape as his own coach is suggesting.

The former Sixth Man of the Year sat out LA's preseason victory over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night on account of fatigue. Prior to the game, Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro admitted to Arash Markazi of that Odom's conditioning hasn't been up to snuff so far:

"There's no question, I've talked to him about it. He's got to work through some conditioning things and some health things, which he's doing, but I've been pleased with his involvement and his intensity during practice and in the locker room. You see him getting a little better. I wish he was in a little bit better condition, he wishes he was too, but he has to continually work every day and I'm sure he'll get there eventually." 

Eventually? So what you're saying, VDN, is that a guy who spent much of last season pouting in hibernation after quitting on the Dallas Mavericks, was fortunate to find his way back to LA and skipped out on Team USA this summer to "work out" is actually in worse shape now than he was in Big D?

You'd think that Odom, a two-time champion and someone with a reputation among his peers for being an all-around good guy, would've come back in better shape. You'd think he'd have some semblance of professional pride, to prove that the 2011-12 season—by far the worst of his NBA career—was a fluke, that he'd be ready to right the ship.

Of course, we don't know just yet whether there's something else going on in Odom's life (other than his ongoing involvement in the reality-show circus of the Kardashian family) that might've contributed to his apparent malaise. A summer replete with personal tragedy last year put Odom out of commission for much of the lockout. His near-move to the New Orleans Hornets and subsequent shipment to Dallas only compounded the problem, physically and emotionally.

Odom's a sensitive guy who's lived a life of hardship...and who has a constant hankering for candy.

Which probably doesn't help matters, as far as his conditioning is concerned.

Still, the fact that Odom, after all he's been and put others through over the last year, doesn't have his act together is a troubling sign for the Clippers. He told reporters after the game on Wednesday night that he had "some moments of deja vu" being back at the Staples Center, though perhaps not the ideal kind. After all, it was during Odom's first stint with the Clips that he was suspended for violating the NBA's anti-drug policy.

Not that drugs necessarily have anything to do with his current situation, but rather that a return to Clippers colors isn't suiting him as well as many had hoped. L.A. had pegged L.O. to be its "super sub", to provide depth and versatility along the front line behind Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Caron Butler, just as he had done for Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum during his days in purple and gold.

Few, if any, thought Odom would be the catalyst to propel the Clips to a deep run through the Western Conference playoffs. However, he was expected to serve as the central figure of a second unit that—along with Grant Hill, Jamal Crawford and Eric Bledsoe—looked to be one of the NBA's best.

Instead, the Clips will have to wait and see what they can squeeze out of Odom if/when he works himself back into shape to the point where his bothersome knees won't be at risk.

Odom's not exactly a spring chick anymore, though. With his 33rd birthday right around the corner, Lamar will likely need more time than usual to get his aging body back up to speed and let his knees heal properly.

Beyond the indignation, it's a sad story to see Odom struggling so mightily with himself at this point. Not two years have passed since he was anointed the league's best bench player. In that time, he's fallen from hero to villain, pissing off Mark Cuban and earning a dubious comparison to Tariq Abdul-Wahad.

Perhaps the Clippers should've know all along. Perhaps now is high time for Chris Paul and company to recalibrate their plans for the season, to assume that anything they get out of Odom is gravy.