Darius Johnson-Odom on cusp of dream with Lakers
The Lakers have unofficially decided to go with 15 players to start the season.
Teams are required by the league to submit their opening-night rosters on Monday. If non-guaranteed players Darius Johnson-Odom and Robert Sacre weren’t going to make the team, they would have been cut before Sunday to allow for the 48-hour waiver period.
Coach Mike Brown indicated after practice that he doesn’t expect the team to drop any additional players before the start of the season.
“I don’t think so right now. I’ll wait and see what management says and ownership,” said Brown. “Right now this is where we stand. For how long? I don’t know.”
Johnson-Odom and Sacre can be released at any point, until their deal becomes guaranteed in January (or sooner if specifically stipulated in their contracts).
Sacre has a real chance to stick for the season, proving himself with significant preseason minutes while Dwight Howard recovered from injury. Johnson-Odom seemed like more of a longshot as he watched players like Andrew Goudelock and Chris Douglas-Roberts get opportunities in preseason.
The young guard had to hope General Manager Mitch Kupchak would give him that chance.
“I didn’t know what to think, to be honest,” said Johnson-Odom. “Those guys were playing. I thought they were doing pretty good. I was shocked I was here but Mitch has some kind of faith in me. He sees something that I bring, either it’s my work ethic in the morning before guys get here or it is what he sees, talking on the court.”
Both Goudelock and Douglas-Roberts have since been waived; Johnson-Odom remains.
“He’s got a long way to go. He’s a good guy, works hard, athletic, explosive,” said Brown. “He’s strong. He’s got some intangibles.”
Don’t expect Johnson-Odom to see the court much as a rookie.
“He’s a young guy that doesn’t quite have a feel for the NBA game,” said Brown. “It’d be some time before he’s ready.”
Time is about all Johnson-Odom can ask for.
“Coach Mike talked to me after practice today and said ‘Just keep working.’ There’s not going to be a lot of reps for me in the beginning but I’ve just got to keep working,” said Johnson-Odom. “I’ve just got to wait my turn. It’s just not my time right now and hopefully I’ll get that chance.”
Playing for the Lakers would be a dream come true for the young guard.
“It would mean a lot for me, not for my accomplishments but shows what kind of person I was, dealing with a lot of adversity, just fighting through some things and keep myself encouraged,” said Johnson-Odom. “That I overcome what people said or how I was ranked or how anything came about, I was able to overcome. Being a 23-year-old kid from Carolina, this dream doesn’t really come to too many kids from North Carolina.”
The team starts the season Tuesday night against the Dallas Mavericks. Odds are high that Johnson-Odom will be in a suit on the bench for the opener, but he’ll be a Laker.
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You can email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.
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