Lakers vs. Celtics Game 5: Lamar Odom Needs to Find His Heart, Hustle

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IJune 12, 2010

BOSTON - JUNE 10:  Lamar Odom #7 and Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers stand on the court during the game against the Boston Celtics during Game Four of the 2010 NBA Finals on June 10, 2010 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. 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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

"My heart don't pump Kool-Aid."

That was a popular phrase in my youth, which was used by peers when courage needed to be summoned in order to complete a task, and it was as much a battle-cry as a statement.

Kool-Aid coursing through a person's heart was a sign of cowardice, and in order to prove your worthiness one had to exhibit that the only fluid that ran through their heart was blood.

Someone needs to remind Los Angeles Lakers' forward, Lamar Odom, of the old adage, because after his heartless defensive performance in Game Four of the NBA Finals, his courage in the face of pressure is in question.

Odom recently told reporters that the Lakers don't win or lose based on his play, that he is just a cog in the machinery of the team, but in order for Los Angeles to have a chance in Game Five, Odom must change his train of thought.

No Lakers' fan would want the responsibility for a victory weighing on Odom's shoulders, because of his dreadful history in those situations, but due to Andrew Bynum's injury there may be no other choice.

Bynum has been the difference for the Lakers in the post because Boston has no player who can match his size and strength on defense or offense, and the Celtics were able to prosper when his minutes were limited in Game Four.

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12 minutes from Bynum meant Odom and Pau Gasol would be the primary post players for the majority of the game, and the Celtics attacked each player mercilessly as Kevin Garnett and Glen Davis found new inspiration in the absence of Bynum.

Odom and Gasol were beaten off the dribble, in the post, and the Celtics shot over them, around them, or simply muscled past them in a barrage of fourth quarter forays to the rim.

I can understand Davis occasionally beating Odom in the post because he is a heavier, wider player, but there was no excuse for the quicker Odom to get beaten off the dribble as much as he did.

It evokes memories of 2008 for me, and Lakers' coach Phil Jackson feels the same way because he mentioned that Finals' series when commenting on Odom's performance in Game Four.

Jackson said Odom struggled in this exact same match-up in 2008, and he has to find the mental strength to believe he can succeed against the smaller, but stronger Davis and Kendrick Perkins.

Talent has never been a question for Odom because he is quite possibly the most versatile and skilled player in the Finals, but finding the right level of consistency has been the bane of his career.

Odom was considered a wild-card before the series began, and it was widely assumed if he played well the Lakers would win because of the size of Gasol and Bynum in the paint.

Any production from Odom was considered a bonus and his reserve role afforded the Lakers an opportunity to change the scope of their scheme without sacrificing to much size.

But with the possibility of Bynum being hindered in Game Five or even missing it all together, Odom's importance becomes paramount, and most signs say he is unprepared for the challenge.

Odom's post-game comments didn't sound like the words of a player who is ready to sacrifice himself for the cause, but they did sound meek, and unsure much like Odom has played thus far.

The memory of his 2008 humbling should serve as inspiration for Odom but instead it has re-surfaced as his worst nightmare, and the only way to erase it permanently is to focus on the task at hand.

It will certainly not be easy because the Celtics are well aware of the Lakers' situation in the post, and Odom and Gasol hold none of the menace towards them that Bynum did.

Already, Kevin Garnett has reclaimed the scowl which was missing in the shadow of Bynum's towering presence.

Davis's guttural howls are still ringing in the ears of Los Angeles fans everywhere, serving as a constant reminder of the thorough abuse he inflicted on Odom in the paint.

Even Paul Pierce was able to make his way to the basket without fear of Bynum standing there to reject his shot, as he has done so many other times in the course of this series.

It seems like the Celtics have their swagger back, and they have a chance to close their three game home stand with the first consecutive victories in this series, and head back to Los Angeles up one game.

The only thing that may be standing in the way of another Celtics celebration is Odom, and whether he wants to be a hero or not, his play could mean the difference from a repeat for the Lakers, or a repeat of 2008.

Odom needs to take a deep breath, gather his focus, and get rid of all that cherry-flavored Kool-Aid pulsing through his heart.

This is the NBA Finals, and someone should remind Odom that this is not the stage for the cowardly or the meek of heart. Odom owns one championship ring, and it's time he earned another one.

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