The NBA just concluded its All-Star weekend, and though Lamar Odom wasn't there to participate, just about everyone in the league believed he should have been.
From deft passing to hot shooting and dominant rebounding, on any given night this year No. 7 has taken over a section of the box score and called it his own. He's also solidified his niche as a key cog in the Lakers success.
It's been a career season for LO, and teammates, opponents, scribes and fans alike are all in agreement that this is the best iteration of Lamar they've ever seen.
THEY SAID IT:
A few Lakers greats, some current Lakers teammates and peers throughout the NBA have had superfluous praise for LO's season to date:
Lakers legend Jerry West:
"He's one of the most underappreciated players on this Laker team. I'm a big fan of his and I'd love to have him on my team. He's a selfless player and you can win with him."
Magic Johnson on LO's start to the season:
"Lamar should win sixth man of the year. This guy is playing just unbelievable right now. If Bynum waits to come back later, Lamar can be on the All-Star team. He's playing that great."
Luke Walton, presenting LO during the Lakers Championship Ring Ceremony on Opening Night:
"He's one of the most versatile players in the entire NBA, can play every position, and is one of the most unselfish players in the league. He sacrifices his own personal success for the team's success. Without him we wouldn't have these rings, my good friend Lamar Odom."
Lakers center Andrew Bynum:
"He keeps everybody light. That's the best thing about him. He's just a great guy. He's funny and really he understands the dynamic of the team. He understands when he's out there with the second unit, he takes control of the game and he's able to do whatever he wants to do."
Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose:
"Lamar's, Lamar. He's going to give you offensive rebounds, tip-ins, push the ball up the floor. If it's an advantage, he's going to drive the ball, try to get to the line, and he's just going to ball when he's on the floor."
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant:
"He's a big problem for other teams matchup-wise. They can't match up with him."
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant:
"He's one of the most versatile players in NBA history. He's seven feet and he can play point guard and he can play center. There's not too many people like that. I have a lot of respect for his game."
Lakers forward Matt Barnes:
"Some games he has carried us in scoring and most of the time he has carried us in rebounding. He even helps us out with assists. He's done everything."
Lakers forward and Lamar's longtime friend Ron Artest:
"He's playing like the Lamar Odom I grew up with. That's the Odom I love playing with."
COACHES IN HIS CORNER
Coaches from the Lakers and around the league have heaped praise on No. 7 all season for his game, his work ethic and his leadership.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau:
"To me, he might be the most underrated player in the league. There's nothing that he doesn't do. He can shoot, he can pass, he's a great rebounder, he's a great defender. He can post, puts it on the floor and he has a very high basketball IQ."
Raptors coach Jay Triano on coaching Lamar at the World Championships for Team USA:
"I developed an incredible amount of respect for him. He was the glue on that team...He showed up every day, did exactly what was asked and made plays when plays needed to be made. (Kevin) Durant was very good, but (Odom) was the reason that team was as good as it was on the defensive end, which is why it won."
Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan:
"He can play five positions, like a point forward at times. You're talking about a Magic Johnson-type guy. His basketball IQ on both sides of the court is as high as it gets."
Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Jim Cleamons:
"I think he's gotten stronger as a player. He's been a little more active, a little more aggressive, both of which I like. But in general, you just gotta love L.O. He lays it out there…He gives us as coaches a great deal of flexibility because he's a natural mismatch. He plays the two, three, four … whom are you going to put on him? It's a problem for opponents."
Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson:
"There's no way we would have the record we have without him playing as well as he has. We've always known how valuable he was to our team."
AS SEEN BY:
Players and coaches weren't alone in their praise.
NBA Writers have taken notice not only of the tangible things that Lamar brings to LA's title puzzle, but the intangible things he does to make the environment around the team better:
Robert Baptista, Forum Blue and Gold:
"This seems to be the best basketball Lamar has played in his life. It could be from the confidence of being a two-time defending champion, his experience winning gold at the World Championships this past summer, being happy in his personal life, or all the above. His averaged stats have looked like this before, but there's an easiness to his play right now that has made him more efficient in getting them."
Mark Medina, The Los Angeles Times:
"Whether you're a teammate, reporter or fan, Odom by all accounts treats everyone with genuine respect and humility. That goes a long way in the Lakers locker room, and it has helped establish Odom as one of the team leaders…Odom has become the guy everyone wants to be around because of his lighthearted nature and sense of humor. That extends to the court, considering that every player feels comfortable around him."
C.A. Clark, Silver Screen and Roll:
"There is no better evidence of the merits of Lamar Odom than what we have seen this season. He is certainly playing better than he ever has in a Lakers uniform, and he might well be having the best season of his career. You could make a case that he's been the best, and more shockingly, the most consistent, player on this star-studded team."
Kevin Pelton, Basketball Prospectus:
"Let's say you had one of these players who could hold his own defensively against fours of all kinds, was an above-average rebounder for the position and also happened to shoot better than 60 percent on two-point attempts. Let's further establish that this player had one of the better net plus-minuses on a contending team, was an outstanding passer for his position and was willing to play whatever role you needed of him. Well, that player is Lamar Odom, and he hasn't gotten enough credit for his terrific season."
Darius Soriano, SB Nation:
"What's nice is that when Lamar retires 10 years from now, he'll leave behind a shorthand for talking about a very specific kind of basketball player. Somewhere, an 11-year-old is in the midst of a huge growth spurt and just learning how to handle the ball on the break, hit a seven-foot bank shot and attack the offensive glass at just the right angle… he'll play hard often enough, and at his best he'll be able to do literally anything his team needs. And when he finally gets to the Association, we won't have to struggle to cram him into categories that don't really describe what his game's all about. Instead we'll be able to say, 'he's just like Lamar Odom.'"
IN HIS OWN WORDS
For his part, Lamar continues to pour his all into the game and takes nothing for granted.
"You live once, you know what I'm saying? Who knows? They always say you never know what you're going to get. Work while you can. Time is our best friend and our worst enemy. Experience makes you better, but it means you're running out. You do want to maximize your time and take advantage of situations and the opportunities that present itself. I can't take advantage if I'm watching or not doing anything. "The strength of my game is to kind of keep pushing, play when I'm tired, outrun and try to outwork my opponent." – Lamar on his work ethic.
BY THE NUMBERS
To underscore just how outstanding No. 7's game has been this season, here's a look inside the numbers:
7 Lamar's jersey number, as well as his rank among the NBA's leaders in scoring percentage
9.2 Rebounds a game LO is averaging just a hair above his career average on the boards.
13 Combined three pointers attempted by the six NBA players with a higher shooting percentage than LO, who has taken 108.
14.2 Lamar's scoring average, good for third on the Lakers despite coming off the bench for nearly half the season.
20 Number of rebounds Lamar grabbed in a victory over the Houston Rockets on February 1st. He also scored 20 points, the third 20-20 night of his career.
22 Double-doubles posted this season by the Package, tying him for 17th in the NBA.
28 Lamar's high in points this year, a massive outburst that secured a mid-December Lakers win over the Philadelphia 76ers. LA has won all three games in which No. 7 obtained his most recent single-season highs.
31 Number of starts for LO to start the 2010-2011 season before gracefully ceding his spot in the starting lineup to returning Andrew Bynum.
41 Games this year in which No. 7 has notched a 50 percent or better showing from the field. In only 16 games this year, has LO failed to crack that barrier.
54.4 No. 7's seventh-ranked field goal percentage, by far the best efficiency of his 11-year career.
The All-Star break is over and the Lakers kick off the second part of their season tonight with a game against the Atlanta Hawks.
It's LA's first time seeing the Hawks this year. In their most recent win against Atlanta last season, LO scored 11 points.
Tonight's tip-off is at 7:30 PST and the game will be shown on Fox West.