No Matter If It's Sweets or a Sweeter Deal, Lamar Odom Deserves It from L.A.
Well...who do you wanna blame?—10,000 Maniacs
For the significantly more than 10,000 maniacs that constitute the Lakers fanbase, it's Lamar Odom they want.
And they're not quite sure who's to blame for an inability to seal the deal to keep him: Dr. Jerry Buss, Mitch Kupchak, Odom, or Odom's agent Jeff Schwartz.
All they know is that the road to a much-desired championship repeat will be a little rougher without the Candyman's contribution on the trail.
Meanwhile, Pat Riley—part of the royal blue court sometime during what now feels like the Mesozoic Era—lurks in the weeds, looking for another Laker to pair with superstar Dwyane Wade. Only this time, it's with the intent of ensuring Wade himself isn't lost to a lustful suitor, as Odom and Wade had a good relationship when both were previously in Miami.
If that comes at the cost of yet again destroying the Lakers' own championship teams—just as Riley once helped build those championship teams—well then, that's just the proverbial icing on the cake.
While the level of anticipation over where Odom will reside during the 2009-10 season hasn't reached King of Pop-style hysteria here in Los Angeles, there's definitely a murmur of interest. I went to go see a friend's band recently here in town, and people couldn't stop the Lamar Talk.
Given the interest in the situation, it doesn't seem to be getting the requisite attention in the mainstream sports media that it deserves.
Then again, there seems to be little to no movement, and definitely no news, from either side. Jeanie Buss is Tweeting about Big Sky Country. For Lamar, it's not his basketball future. It's HBO.
So what more is there to do than for all of us spectators—amateur and professional—to wring our hands as the organization appears to be sitting on theirs? However, you can be sure that the reverberations will be felt throughout this city and the rest of the league if Odom does indeed choose a beach house on the Atlantic over one on the Pacific.
Losing Trevor Ariza to the Rockets was disappointing, but not altogether unexpected. It was also offset by the acquisition of Ron Artest, whom most Laker and NBA fans believed was an upgrade for the defending champs.
Losing Odom would be irredeemable, and no acceptable substitute awaits inside or outside the organization.
Odom proved himself when it counted most, during the Finals that sealed the Lakers' first championship in seven years. He shot 54 percent from the field, and I think Stan Van Gundy is still trying to draw up a scheme to match up with Odom offensively and defensively.
Outside of the box score, Odom offered, and will continue to offer, a versatility hard to find anywhere else in the league. He's part of the reason a bench with Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic, and Luke Walton is considered "deep." He can come in and reasonably fill in at three positions when players succumb to the occasional foul trouble, injury, or daydream—I'm looking in your direction, Andrew Bynum.
Even putting that aside, Odom has evolved in Los Angeles from an enigmatic head case that the Lakers couldn't rely on game-to-game to a fan favorite.
Now, don't get me wrong. People out here love Kobe Bryant—maybe to a fault.
But there will only be so much Kobe ever gives you of himself, even when he's smiling and opening up in ways he hasn't before, which he did during and after this title run.
Whether it's because of his early placement on the national stage, his drive to succeed, his legal problems in Colorado earlier this decade, or just because he's Kobe Bryant, there will always be that icy reserve, that distance he keeps between himself and the rest of us earthly mortals.
Odom, on the other hand, has become all-too-human and simpatico to the fans—though perhaps to a fault as well. There's his well-documented weakness for candy. Anybody who's ever been a kid can relate. Or his march from his downtown apartment to Staples Center during the playoffs.
Can you imagine Kobe doing something like that? Can you imagine Kobe even ever living in downtown L.A.?
Odom is the closest connection fans have to this team that has reached the loftiest of peaks.
Was it a mistake for Odom and his agent to not respond to Dr. Buss for a week after the Lakers had made the two best deals Odom has seen this summer? Definitely.
Lamar, I beseech you to talk some sense into your agent, get to work on a mea culpa, and deliver it to Dr. Buss—preferably, unlike many of your postgame interviews, while looking him in the eye.
And Mr. Schwartz, stop watching those Arli$$ reruns on DVD and try to be proactive in actually getting a deal hammered out here. If the Lakers aren't offering a deal that you think is worthy of your client, then that's something they should know. This may be a very complicated term that's above your pay grade, but I think that's what they call in sports agent school a "negotiation."
However, Dr. Buss, on behalf of the fans, I also request of you that you be the bigger man here. Don't let Odom's last walk as a Laker be the one he makes to Miami. Open back up that hand Odom and Schwartz so rudely slapped away.
You always seem to come through and reward talent when it's merited. Remember when you gave Magic Johnson that 25-year, $25 million contract that seemed astonishing at the time, but now would be considered a steal? It's time for you to think outside the (chocolate) box again to preserve this championship nucleus.
Cut one 20-year-old model from your payroll, pony up some cash for the luxury tax if you need to, and give Lamar what we wants. Heck, back up the ice cream truck if that's what it takes.
Because for the Lakers and their fans, these are the days we'll remember, when we are blessed and lucky. They won't last forever—if they haven't ended already.
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