Thursday, June 12, 2008

In Flux: Lamar Odom

One of my favorite Sci-Fi gags involves putting someone in a teleporter loop. You know the little doohickeys like they have on Star-Trek where they beam you to a different position in space? Like in The Fly? Well, theoretically, if those were to exist, and you were to put someone into the process, and then configure the arriving transporter to automatically send the matter to the next teleporter, and so on to a fourth, and then back to the first, you would essentially have a person that simultaneously exists in four different places, and nowhere. It creates a physical paradox that would render the person completely incapable of thought or relevant movement. And that's a lot like Lamar Odom lately.

Lamar Odom is 6-11, 230 lbs.

That's a big guy.

Lamar Odom is not a big. And the sooner that we the fans, Lamar Odom, and the Lakers coaching staff realize this, the better off we'll all be.

We tend to exalt guys who are bigger than their position, yet can play it. We consider them "freaks" or "hyper-athletic." These things are especially important in draft evaluations. Yet for some reason, Lamar Odom is being harangued because he's an oversized small forward trying to play power forward. His game is much more suited to the 3 spot, allowing him to use his range, length, slashing ability and quickness to get to the basket. This proves remarkably difficult when A. he is exhausted from having to guard guys who are much more physical and bulkier than him, and B. his defender is hanging out in the paint, waiting on him to drive while Pierce and Rondo take swipes at the ball in his hands as they continue to shadow their man.

You have to give Odom an edge. Not much of one, but an edge. He has to be able to get in between, underneath, around, and otherwise sneakily past defenders without going through them. His hook shot isn't reliable. His tip-ins are suspect. And when defenders are waiting on him? His layups are atrocious right now.

With Ariza back, the Lakers have options. Ronnie Turiaf is going to pick up fouls. This is true. So is Kendrick Perkins. Start Turiaf, push Gasol to the 4 where he rightfully belongs, shift Odom to the three and play Kobe and Fisher. What, are you worried about the Celtics outrunning you? Seriously? With Ray Allen, Kendrick Perkins, and Sam Cassell all getting significant minutes? If Turiaf gets in foul trouble, shift Gasol to the 5, insert Ariza. If Gasol gets in foul trouble, insert Ariza. The concern? Pierce will kill him. I got news for you. If Pierce is healthy, he'll kill anyone you put on him. And it's not like Vladimir Radmanovic is anything but a tragic, vacant ghost on defense. Let Odom use his physical tools against him. Then you have offense versus offense, not offense and defense versus offense and defense. The sooner the Lakers accept that Odom and Gasol are not going to be forces on the defensive end, the better. The Lakers want a high scoring game. They want a faster pace. They want a back and forth game. That's how they got here with one of the highest pace ratings and one of the highest efficiency ratings. Your concern isn't Paul Pierce scoring, that's going to happen or it's not. What you do worry about are Kendrick Perkins, Leon Powe, and Kevin Garnett created second and third chances with Ray Allen warming up. Moving Odom back to his rightful place at the 3 is good, fourfold. First, it puts a meaner, tougher frontcourt out there (as tough as you can be with a guy with a heart condition and Pau Freaking Gasol). Second, it allows Odom to concentrate on the offensive end, where he's best. Third, it takes the pressure off of him by not asking him to do that which he cannot: be physical and rebound (in this series, against this team specifically). And four, it simultaneously puts him in a more key position of stopping Pierce, yet in a more comfortable setting.

Pierce can outduel Odom. And Pierce can outduel Kobe, if the cards go right and Boston stays fundamentally sound. Pierce can't ouduel Kobe and Pierce. Let Odom be Odom. It'll work out much better, and we won't all be so disappointed in the guy.

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