A Time for Redemption: Lamar Odom in the NBA Finals

Brian HainesContributor IJune 8, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 07:  Lamar Odom #9 of the Los Angeles Lakers goes to the basket over Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic in Game Two of the 2009 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. 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 Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

 

Since his college days at UNLV—albeit very few days—Lamar Odom has always been a polarizing figure surrounded by controversy. After Odom was released from UNLV, he hooked on with Rhode Island and his buzzer-beating three-pointer gave the Rams their first ever A-10 title.

But Odom was never one for college as he immediately left for the NBA draft and was hailed as the savior for the Los Angeles Clippers after averaging 16.6 points and 7.8 rebounds his rookie season.

However, injuries and a small suspension for alleged marijuana usage led to Odom never really propelling the Clippers to greatness and he moved on the Heat.

After a promising season with Miami—where he teamed with Caron Butler and Dwayne Wade—Odom was shipped off to the Los Angeles Lakers to try his hand with Kobe Bryant. After a frustrating first season Odom has been progressively better and his performance on the NBA's biggest stage can perhaps turn around his reputation as he heads towards free agency.

But for as well as he has been playing lately, Odom has often been accused of being an inconsistent, unmotivated player, whether fairly or unfairly. Despite being one of the most versatile NBA players ever, Odom has failed to receive his just due, but things could be fast changing with his recent play.

The fact of the matter is Odom has the handle of a point guard, the defensive skills of a big man, and the quickness to guard nearly anyone. Team that with his above-average jump shot and you have a player that will instantly make any team better.

While the Lakers will have a tough decision when it comes to the impending free agency of Odom and Trevor Ariza, Bryant will most certainly attest that keeping Odom is the key to long-term success.

While Kobe may be the heir apparent to Jordan, the Lakers were floundering against Denver until Odom picked up his play and dominated the interior for the Lakers.

Only time and money will tell how valuable teams around the league think Odom is when these finals come to and end.