In the NBA, the sixth man is one of the most important players on the entire team. Not only do they relieve the starters and give them much need rest, but they are the first player to step in when there's an injury in the lineup.
For the Los Angeles Lakers, Lamar Odom has not only been a force off the bench—he's averaging just under 10 points and 10 rebounds per game—but he has been a superfluous replacement while both Ron Artest and Pau Gasol both heal from injuries.
Odom, who signed a three-year $25 million contract this off season, was once frustrated with the lack of minutes he was getting as a nonstarter (31 MPG), but has now become the perfect supplement to the high powered offense in Los Angeles.
Unselfish play and the desire to win are what makes Odom the unique player that he is. He expressed his desire to win another championship this summer:
"I always wanted to come back because we won the championship," Odom told ESPN's Shelley Smith. "I'm playing for the biggest brand in the world. And I'm playing with the most fluid, talented center in the world in Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum's coming back, and of course Kobe Bryant."
On Tuesday, Odom was outstanding in the stead of Gasol while pulling down 19 rebounds, dropping 17 points and dishing out nine assists—only one shy of a triple double.
Odom clearly deserves to start at any other program in the NBA, but chose to stay with the Lakers and win another championship; the perfect player.
Not only does he have amazing athletic ability, but he has the tenacity and charisma that it takes to be a Los Angeles Laker. No one in the entire NBA will work out harder than Lamar, and he deserves the Sixth Man Award after only three months.
Cohesiveness between teammates is nearly as important as overall talent in professional basketball, and Odom fits into any on-court scenario for the Lakers.
Lately, many analysts and Lakers fans have criticized Bynum's ability to play with Gasol in the starting rotation, but when Odom has been in the lineup, Bynum has had some of his best games of the season.
In two games, Bynum had 19 and 24 points when Odom started, proving that he is the perfect fit in Los Angeles. At 6'10", Odom is versatile enough to run the triangle offense perfectly for the Lakers, while cutting to the hoop or staying out on the perimeter.
If the Lakers want to repeat their NBA championship, they will need a heave contribution from Odom and the entire Los Angeles bench. With sufficient minutes, he will continue to bring his tenacity and love for the game every night he is on the floor, whether he is starting or on the bench. Any team would love a sixth man like Lamar Odom.