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For Lamar Odom, another championship has a nice ring to it

After winning another NBA title with the Lakers, Odom has his sights set on helping the United States win the gold medal at the world championship in Turkey.

September 02, 2010|By Broderick Turner

Lamar Odom won his second consecutive NBA championship in June playing for his team, the Lakers.

Now he's trying to win his first world championship in September playing for his country, the United States.

Odom is the starting center for Team USA in the FIBA World Championship in Turkey, on a team that some consider too small and too inexperienced to become champions.

But his team finished Group B play with a 5-0 record after beating Tunisia, 92-57, on Thursday and advances to the round of 16 with a No.1 seeding.

"The thought of being a world champion twice in one year is cool, you know?" Odom said in a telephone interview. "I could brag to Kobe [Bryant] and tell him this is something he doesn't got."

Odom paused before letting out a booming laugh.

Bryant was on the U.S. team that won the gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but he has never played in the world championship.

"But he's got a lot of stuff I don't," Odom said, laughing again. "He's got MVPs, helicopters."

The U.S. next faces fourth-seeded Angola on Monday, with the winner moving on to the quarterfinals.

If the U.S. reaches the semifinals, it could face Argentina or Brazil. On Monday, the U.S. narrowly beat Brazil, 70-68, in group play. Odom had his best game of the tournament with eight points and nine rebounds, and Kevin Durant led the team with 27 points.

Odom has suffered before in international basketball. He was on the 2004 Olympic team that was widely criticized when it returned home with only a bronze medal.

"As a kid, playing for a team with USA on the front of the jersey, it means a lot," Odom said. "We lost [in 2004]. That's the beautiful thing about sports — you never know who is going to win. But to be able to have the opportunity to win this world championship, it would be a real incredible experience."

Odom, who took his wife, Khloe Kardashian, to Turkey, was named USA co-captain along with Chauncey Billups.

"These young dudes on my team, I'm glad I've got the opportunity to play with them, to get to know them," said Odom, 30. "We're a deep team as far as athleticism and as far as character. So I'm glad I got the chance to do this.

"It just adds to my resume," he added, pointing out that he has been coached by Phil Jackson and Pat Riley in the NBA and now Mike Krzyzewski with the U.S. team.

Meanwhile, Odom says the Lakers' off-season additions of free agents Steve Blake, Matt Barnes and Theo Ratliff have made the team that much better.

"Our front office always does a great job at bringing guys in but yet keeping our core of players together," he said.

When Riley pulled off a coup in getting Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh to join forces in Miami, Odom said he wasn't surprised. Riley persuaded Odom to sign with the Heat as a free agent in 2003, taking him away from the Clippers.

"He understands his brand and what he has to offer," Odom said. "That's a great place to go play basketball, South Beach. That's a good team. Any time you get talent like that and bring them together, you give yourself a chance to win."

If Odom and the U.S. reach the final, they would play for the championship Sept. 12. That would give Odom almost two weeks before the Lakers start training camp Sept. 25.

Usually, Odom takes most of the summer off after a long NBA season, something Jackson has chided him for in the past.

"He can't say that this time," Odom said, laughing. "You never know what can come out of this. I hope it's a gold medal."

broderick.turner@latimes.com

twitter.com/BA_Turner

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