11/14/2012 - 10:56
Big Picture in Mind, LO Puts in the Work
Nobody said life in the NBA was easy.
The highs can be fleeting and the lows can be unforgiving. In the world of professional basketball, only one question prevails: "What have you done for me lately?" Coaches know it, players know it, and the fans enforce it.
Lamar has been working hard to get back into playing shape while recovering from a knee injury (Getty Images).
It takes a true professional to appreciate the highs and battle through the lows. Lamar Odom is a true professional.
LO's fourteenth NBA season didn't start the way he hoped it would. Still hampered by lingering bruises in both knees, No. 7's playing time has been limited to 10 minutes per game and his production bears witness of that. LO's scoring and rebounding are well below his typically high expectations, but Lamar knows to keep his eyes on the big picture.
"If our record is 5-2 and I'm taking steps in the right direction, that's all I can do," he said. "It's all about staying positive and understanding the big picture. There's no way I can get it back after missing a year and a half. It takes time and I'll stay the course."
No. 7 played 11 and-a-half minutes against the Hawks on Sunday, his most since opening weekend (Getty Images).
Where many other athletes would shrink away in down times, Lamar's attitude underscores his professionalism and assures his supporters he still has a lot more to give. Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro recognizes the potential LO still has, and has full confidence in his progress.
"There's a process for him," the coach said. "He's continually working on his conditioning and understanding what we're trying to do there. I'm trying to get him some minutes here and there the best I can. He understands the big picture, and we do. We've sat down and talked."
Lamar remains optimistic he will find the rejuvenation he needs after a trying season in Dallas a year ago. He knows he needs to be patient, and his coaches and teammates know his talent is worth the wait.
"It's going to take a little time," Del Negro said. "I'm very comfortable with his work ethic. I'm very comfortable with his approach."
With the depth of the Clippers, Lamar is also entering uncharted territory with respect to how he will be used. The Clippers have no trouble scoring points—they're currently third in the NBA at 102 points per game—so they will be reaching for the other aspects of LO's game.
LA believes that an all-around skillset like Lamar's, will help reinforce an already stacked cast of players. No. 7 knows it's only a matter of time and the effort he puts in.
Much of that effort has been focused on returning to peak playing shape. Lamar has worked his weight down, shedding several pounds over the last few weeks, but those are only the first steps on the journey ahead.
"I want to get back to where I'm carved up again," he recently told reporters.
With limited playing time, Lamar knows he has to put in extra work behind the scenes to return to physical form.
"I can't get it back in a day or two days," he said. "It takes time."
Understanding the big picture is important for the Clippers organization. At 5-2, the Clips have jumped out to an early lead in the Pacific Division, But success in LA is all about the long haul and NBA greatness is about winning the marathon, not sprinting from the starting line.
As a two-time NBA champion, Lamar knows that as well as anybody. His experience playing winning basketball provides a long list of positive intangibles for the Clippers to draw off.
"He has such a good feel for the game, he can make plays out there," Del Negro said recently. "He sees plays offensive or defensively out there because of his experience."
Lamar's experience in the NBA has been highlighted by his constant resilience. Tonight the Clippers welcome the Miami Heat—Lamar's former team—to the Staples Center. Memories of the 2003-04 season that Lamar spent in Miami bring into focus a trying time in LO's life, but also a personal resurgence on and off the court.
Recovering from injury and still grieving over the loss of his grandmother, Lamar entered the 03-04 season broken and trying to pick up the pieces. Pat Riley, then the general manager and now the team president in Miami, played a monumental part in guiding Lamar along the way.
"He saved me," LO said. "He saved me, as far as holding me accountable for everything I do."
That season Lamar was a breakout performer, leading the Heat to the playoffs alongside teammate Dwyane Wade. Even more impressive was his growth as a man outside the arena.
Lamar spent just one season in Miami, but the experience helped him turn his career around (Getty Images).
Now Lamar finds himself at another crossroads in his career. LO is once again looking within for growth. As he continues recovery from the injured knees, he will try to capitalize his time on the floor in what could be a telling game for his team against the East Coast power house.
At 6-2, the Heat are living up to preseason expectations. Led by the Big Three of Lebron James, Wade, and Chris Bosh, Miami has the highest scoring offense in the NBA. James is coming off a 38-point performance against the Rockets on Monday.
The Clippers will have to carry over the defensive success of Sunday's game against Atlanta, in which they allowed just 76 points. Los Angeles carries a three game win streak into tonight's game, but will have to brace themselves for a battle on the court.
Tip-off from Staples Center is set for 7:30 p.m. PST, and the game will air nationally on ESPN.
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