As he makes steps toward progressing back into basketball, it turns out Lamar Odom received a significant assist from a former teammate who once provided many of them to him on the court.
Pau Gasol once formed a great pair with Odom, their versatile skillset and teamwork with the Lakers proving instrumental toward winning two NBA championships. Now Odom has joined the Spanish team Laboral Kutxa amid a year a trial and tribulation in which he dealt with a divorce from reality television star Khloe Kardashian, a drunk driving arrest (plead no contest) and being waived by the Clippers. Considering Gasol’s background with both the Spanish national team, he proved a key influence in ensuring Odom latched onto the Spanish club team.
“I was told about Baskonia through my agent. I spoke to Pau,” Odom told reporters. “I understood that Pau had a great relationship with Coach Sergio [Scariolo], that was one of the main reasons why I wanted to come.”
Gasol also recently voiced support toward Odom joining the team on Twitter.
— Pau Gasol (@paugasol) February 18, 2014
Gasol’s affection for Odom remains deeply rooted for obvious reasons. Gasol played with Odom in four of his seven season with the Lakers, appearing in three consecutive NBA Finals and winning two league championships. The Lakers’ acquisition of Gasol Feb. 2008 stemmed from a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies eventually resulted in Odom having a bench role. Odom and Gasol also remain linked because they were part of the Lakers’ Chris Paul deal that ultimately was stopped by former NBA Commissioner David Stern. Gasol would’ve gone to the Houston Rockets and Odom would’ve gone to the New Orleans Hornets.
In a controversial move, the Lakers accommodated Odom’s trade request to the Dallas Mavericks for a $8.9 million trade exception and a flurry of draft picks.
Odom averaged then career-lows in points (6.6), shooting percentage (35.2), rebounds (4.2), assists (1.7) and minutes (20.5). At the time, Odom was also only a summer removed from a close cousin dying and being a passenger of a car where the driver accidently struck and killed a 15-year-old pedestrian. Fed up with his play, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban cut ties with him last April before eventually dealing him in a three-team trade to the Clippers. Last season, Odom averaged a career-low 4 points.
“I got to play in the incredible city of L.A. and win championships and play with players like Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, coached by Phil Jackson and Pat Riley [in Miami],” said Odom. “Then sometimes you get to a point in your life where less is more.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org