After the Clippers landed in Los Angeles on Wednesday night to conclude an exhausting whirlwind trip to China, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan turned around and got on another plane that evening. They flew to Las Vegas to visit Lamar Odom.
“He probably has no idea we were there, but just to be there and to see him, hopefully he knows there’s a lot of guys that love him and want to see him do better and want to see him get better,” Griffin said before the Clippers practiced Saturday.
Odom, who played alongside Griffin and Jordan on the Clippers in 2012-13, was hospitalized in Las Vegas after he was found unconscious Tuesday at a Nevada brothel after ingesting what officials said was a mashup of herbal sexual stimulants, cocaine and alcohol.
Griffin said he learned a lot from Odom during the one season they played together.
“He was great for me in teaching me that you’re going to have bad games, you’re going to have a bad stretch of the season; just shake it off, stay loose, stay happy,” Griffin said. “And he was great about it, keeping us happy.”
Chris Paul also made a trip to Las Vegas to see Odom upon the Clippers’ return to Los Angeles.
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said the team talked about Odom’s condition while they were in China before their 113-71 loss to the Charlotte Hornets in Shanghai on Wednesday.
“It’s just really a sad thing,” said Rivers. “Lamar was here. He was one of the first calls I made when I got here, if you remember. We brought him in, and I basically told him, ‘Get right and you have a job.’ Obviously, he couldn’t get that part of it right.”
Odom, who helped the Lakers win the NBA championship in 2009 and 2010 and was named Sixth Man of the Year in 2011, was distraught after the Lakers tried to trade him to New Orleans as part of a deal to acquire Paul in December 2011. That deal was vetoed by then-NBA commissioner David Stern, but Odom seemingly never recovered.
The Lakers ended up dealing Odom to Dallas, where he averaged 6.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists a game. The Mavericks traded him the following summer to the Clippers, where he averaged a career-low four points over 82 games.
Rivers pointed out to his players that despite Odom’s personal struggles on the court that season, he had the right attitude.
“What I told my players was that you have to enjoy each other more,” Rivers said. “Lamar had it right on the court. He’s the exact opposite of half the players — they don’t get it right on the floor. They don’t figure out how to play for their teammates and to be a great teammate. Most guys never get that. That’s what Lamar had.
“That’s why everyone is so emotional; he is a great teammate. Every player that he played with, you hear it now. Once he left the floor, that’s where he has a lot of demons. We talked about it a lot. I don’t know if that was the right conversation to have before a preseason game because the guys were very emotional about it, but I just thought it was the right thing to do.”
Paul was so affected by the news of Odom’s condition that after the Clippers’ preseason loss in China on Wednesday, he delivered a special message to his former teammate on television: “We love you, man. Keep fighting.”
Added Paul: “LO is just one of those guys who, when he was on our team, he had that veteran leadership. He knew what it took to win. He was very lighthearted. When things got a little bit too serious, he was the one who kept us relaxed and laughed and stuff like that. He’s just an unbelievable guy.”
Rivers said Paul, who broke his left index finger during a practice in China last Saturday, caught a lucky break that the fracture wasn’t tendon-based.
The point guard missed one of the Clippers’ two games in China because of the injury but finished with 17 points, six assists and five turnovers in Wednesday’s loss. Paul acknowledged that he was playing through pain during that game, and said there were a lot of things he couldn’t do because of the injury. He said he expects to play in Tuesday’s exhibition against Golden State.
“You gotta play,” Paul said, “Ain’t nobody going to feel sorry for you.”
Austin Rivers spent the last two days in a dentist’s office after an inadvertent elbow from Branden Dawson during practice last Friday in China loosened three teeth and knocked out one.
“If he gets hit, he could lose them all,” Rivers said of his son, who also missed the team’s first exhibition in China and had four points, one assist and one steal in 18 minutes in the second. “I don’t know that there’s anything to do. He’s got to play.”
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