Odom is prepared for his new life
Not much new in Lamar Odom’s life, other than a reality-TV star wife, a $33-million contract extension and daily games of hide-and-seek with the ever-present paparazzi.
A year ago, Odom was angry when Coach Phil Jackson said the Lakers forward would be a backup instead of a starter. That’s the least of his concerns now.
He still has reserve status, but no longer single status after marrying Khloe Kardashian about two weeks ago, a move that shifted him from the inside pages of sports magazines to the covers of supermarket tabloids across the country.
It also made nights on the town a little less, uh, private.
Even if it’s just Odom and his wife, it can feel like a table for eight with the phalanx of photographers zooming in on them in restaurants, clubs and the like. Because of Kardashian’s popularity among gossip groupies, Odom is tracked pretty much everywhere he goes.
“It’s part of what they do. It’s part of the world,” he said of the paparazzi. “Once I’m in the house and a comfortable place, they can’t come on private property. If we’re in a restaurant and they want to sit there and take pictures, it doesn’t matter.”
“Playing basketball at a high level and of course playing basketball in L.A., and being from New York and understanding lifestyles has probably prepared me for it and has helped me stay patient in those situations,” Odom said. “This is a high-profile city we live in and we won a championship, and those things have helped me prepare for what’s to come in my relationship with my wife.”
Odom is living in the penthouse of a luxury hotel, in the process of leaving behind his easily accessible Manhattan Beach home for a more private residence on L.A.'s Westside.
It’s a new life with a new home and new TV channels on which to be featured, but Lakers fans need not worry about the added commotion, according to Jackson, who said he noticed “absolutely nothing” different about Odom the first two weeks of the exhibition season.
“He’s been upbeat and very productive in practices,” Jackson said.
Odom will be 30 next month, though he might feel as if he’s turning 50 after a July that seemed to drag on forever.
Odom and the Lakers were involved in laborious contract talks that lasted almost the entire month, a slow-speed chase that finally ended with the unrestricted free agent re-signing for four more years.
“I was fortunate enough to have other teams there, so that kind of eased the process a little bit -- Portland came in the mix and Miami,” Odom said. “But I know where I wanted to be. Who wants to win a championship and then have to leave the team?”
Odom was an important part of the Lakers’ playoff run, stepping in for a not-quite-right Andrew Bynum numerous times. He averaged 19.5 points and 11 rebounds in Games 5 and 6 of the Western Conference finals, helping the Lakers break open a 2-2 series tie with the ultra-physical Denver Nuggets.
Friends and associates of Odom unilaterally say this is the happiest they’ve ever seen a man who has lost his mother, grandmother and an infant son.
“I’ve been through a lot worse than getting married,” Odom said. “Even though some of it was, like, whirlwind, things happen fast in my life. They’ve always happened fast ever since I was 12, 16, and having my grandmother and then not having my grandmother and my children.
“If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. As a man, I just try to be prepared for everything that comes my way and I think I was able to do that this summer, just prepare myself.”
Then he paused while reflecting on what he just said.
“Damn, that was good,” he said, smiling.
Reserve guard Sasha Vujacic shot 26.4% in the playoffs and was scoreless in the NBA Finals, but Jackson is hoping for marked improvement. “I’m seeing signs that he looks like he’s getting his shot back, but that’s something that comes and goes. We’re looking for the rest of his game to continue to improve.” . . . Reserve forward Luke Walton has logged a total of 17 minutes in two exhibition games. Jackson said not to read too much into it. “Luke’s very good,” Jackson said. “We always know that Luke hurts himself in training camp, so we’re watching him closely.” Walton has been slowed by various injuries the last couple of exhibition seasons.