Lamar Odom’s DUI arrest adds to concerns
Lamar Odom’s arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence Friday morning was the latest in a series of grim developments that could endanger the veteran free agent’s hopes of returning to the NBA.
The former Clippers and Lakers star refused to submit to chemical testing after his arrest, adding fuel to tabloid-style accusations regarding his private life during a tumultuous off-season.
Odom was already coming off the worst two seasons of his career and there are no assurances the 14-year NBA veteran, who spent last season with the Clippers, will play another game.
Odom’s arrest came after nearly a week of concerned tweets from former teammates and coaches regarding reports from gossip websites about alleged drug use and problems with his marriage to Khloe Kardashian Odom. Jeff Schwartz, Lamar Odom’s agent, did not return calls Friday seeking comment.
Odom, 33, must confront another issue that threatens his career.
“Lamar can’t play anymore,” said one senior executive with an NBA team who spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not want to publicly discuss a free agent. The 6-foot-10 forward averaged career lows in points (4.0), assists (1.7) and minutes (19.7) last season with the Clippers.
If Odom does sign with a team and is convicted of DUI, he will face a mandatory evaluation by the director of the NBA’s anti-drug program, according to terms of the league’s collective bargaining agreement.
Odom was taken into custody at 3:54 a.m. after a California Highway Patrol officer spotted him driving a white Mercedes sport-utility vehicle erratically on the 101 Freeway in the San Fernando Valley at speeds of about 50 mph.
Authorities tried to pull over Odom, but he continued driving eastbound, passing Van Nuys Boulevard and Woodman Avenue. He exited at Coldwater Canyon Boulevard and came to a stop, CHP officials said.
Odom showed “objective signs of intoxication and was unable to perform field sobriety tests as explained and demonstrated,” according to a CHP report.
He refused to take chemical tests at the station upon his arrest to determine his level and type of intoxication. As a result, CHP officer Leland Tang said, Odom’s driver’s license will be suspended a year under California law. Tang said that if Odom had taken the tests, he would probably have faced a reduced suspension of his license.
Odom was booked without incident, spent about 31/2 hours in jail and was released after posting $14,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear in Van Nuys Municipal Court on Sept. 27.
Tang said the investigation will be reviewed by the Los Angeles city attorney’s office, which will decide whether misdemeanor charges will be filed.
Odom also had a minor traffic accident Aug. 24 on the 101 Freeway involving Times reporter Adolfo Flores in which no one was injured.
The Lakers and Clippers had each spoken with Odom about a possible contract earlier this summer before committing to other players. The Clippers recently signed veteran forward Antawn Jamison, alleviating their need to re-sign Odom.
Odom has mostly kept a low profile since the season ended, with the exception of a widely documented run-in with a paparazzo in Hollywood. After a photographer asked him whether he was having an extramarital affair, Odom confiscated a rolling bag believed to contain camera equipment and later deposited it on Hollywood Boulevard. The L.A. County district attorney’s office declined to file charges, citing insufficient evidence.
Odom has not been able to escape the scrutiny of gossip websites that have touted his alleged drug use, prompting widespread concern in the NBA community.
“I wish my friend @RealLamarOdom is doing well,” Lakers forward Pau Gasol tweeted Tuesday. “All these rumors are really worrying me. Lamar is one of the best guys I’ve ever played with.”
The previous day, Lakers legend Magic Johnson tweeted, “I hope my man and former Laker, Lamar Odom is doing okay.”
Replied former Lakers Coach Phil Jackson via Twitter: “Double ditto, LO.”
Odom violated the NBA’s anti-drug program twice in eight months earlier in his career, admitting in 2001 during his first stint with the Clippers that he had used marijuana.
“I’ve made a couple [of mistakes] and I may make a couple again,” Odom said at the time, “but hopefully they won’t be as big as this one.”
A league official said free agents generally are not subject to the NBA’s drug-testing policy, which tests only for performance-enhancing substances and diuretics during the off-season.
Odom played seven seasons for the Lakers and was a key player on two championship teams. He also won the sixth-man-of-the-year award in the 2010-11 season.
Even for someone who has known hardship since childhood — his mother died when he was 12 and his father was addicted to heroin — Odom has endured a particularly unsettling few years.
The day after he attended the funeral of a cousin who was murdered in the summer of 2011, Odom was riding in a car that collided with a motorcycle, which struck and killed a 15-year-old boy.
Odom’s feelings were hurt several months later when the Lakers tried to include him as part of a trade for Chris Paul that was voided by the NBA. Odom then requested a trade that the Lakers granted by sending him to Dallas, where he sulked through a subpar season before essentially being dismissed from the team.
He was a good citizen last season in his return to the Clippers, the team with which he had spent his first four NBA seasons, though his lack of aggressiveness on offense often infuriated fans and coaches.
Odom made a rare start in the Clippers’ final playoff loss to the Memphis Grizzlies because of an injury to Blake Griffin, scoring seven points and grabbing two rebounds.
Those may be the final statistics Odom logs in his NBA career.
Times staff writer Kate Mather contributed to this report.
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