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Lakers' Odom is 'ready now to be successful'

January 12, 2011|T.J. SIMERS

No doubt for some they will not believe it possible.

But for more than a decade now, I have been pulling for Lamar Odom. From the very start when he was with the Clippers, I found him special.

We argued about that. He wanted to just blend in. I wanted him to exceed expectations and be a superstar.

He's thoughtful. He's very smart, so long as he isn't giving his ridiculous opinions on the NFL. And he's just people.

You meet all kinds, hundreds and hundreds doing this job. They come and they go. But few make as a big or friendlier impression than Odom, who seems intent on making friends with everyone in the world.

You watch Odom deal with people and you wonder why other athletes find it so difficult to do so.

He's had his problems, more than most of us will ever encounter. I'm sure some were of his own doing.

Whatever, it's been fascinating charting his progress from season to season. Good things should happen to good people.

He left for Miami. He came back to L.A. He disappointed. But now he's arrived big time, or so it seems. He's averaging more points, more rebounds and shooting with a higher percentage for the Lakers than his career numbers.

He made a difference for the U.S. national team this summer in Turkey, and as well as he has been playing this season, he's gone to the Lakers' bench without complaint. "I wasn't prepared to be a great player," he says before Tuesday night's laugher with Cleveland. "I wasn't prepared to deal with the stresses that come along with being a great player. And my biggest inconsistency was off the court, which hurt me."

The biggest change off the court has been his marriage to Khloe Kardashian. As he says, "Marriage changes everyone."

Amen.

"And a lot of people will admit for the better," adds Odom.

Amen. Might as well earn a few points at home while I'm at it.

"It's about preparation again," Odom says, "Preparation for life. I think I'm ready now to be successful."

Phil Jackson and I, of course, have so much in common in addition to thinking the same. He's also a big fan of Odom.

"I'm the guy that went to bat for him two years ago when there was the possibility he wasn't going to sign,'' Jackson says.

"We've always known how valuable he is to our team. With Andrew [ Bynum] being out as long as he has, there's no way we would have the record we have if Lamar wasn't playing as well.''

So what happened, why is Odom doing so well this year?

"I can't help you write your column," says Jackson, as if his time is so valuable with lowly Cleveland in town.

"One time only in your life," I pleaded. "Dig deep, you can do it." As you can see in this New Year, whatever it takes to remain positive about our local athletes.

Begging apparently works.

"Lamar's marriage has really helped his life along," says Jackson.

"You see, you could do it," I tell Jackson, "very good."

"Thank you," says Jackson, the world so much a better place when everyone is talking about Odom.

TIM LEIWEKE wants to bring a football stadium downtown. Let's hope the payoff is bigger than that promised with David Beckham's arrival.

Leiweke, AEG's front man, maintains the Beckham fiasco was more success than failure for the Galaxy. He says, "I not only believe it, I know it."

We disagree.

"Everyone has an opinion, that's why God created sportswriters," he says.

Without sportswriters no one could ever be counted on to go to a hockey game. More on that losing proposition in a moment.

Think back to the hubbub surrounding Beckham's arrival and what he was going to do for soccer in this country. He did nothing to advance the sport locally, although Leiweke says MLS has more teams now. Like that's a good thing.

"We could have done better -- both him and us in this city," Leiweke admits.

At least he's finally come to his senses. "Right now we have a five-year contract with him and there are no conversations about extending that contract," he says, making this Beckham's last year here. Is it possible to miss someone if you really never knew he was here in the first place?

"We're trying to get younger as a team and also appeal to the Hispanic population base," Leiweke says. "That's very important to us. We need a Hispanic superstar on this team and we're trying to get one."

Right now my favorite Hispanic soccer player is in Europe. I know more sometimes than I let on.

Leiweke says the Galaxy broke even financially last year. No idea if that includes the mega-million waste of money Beckham gets from AEG every year.

As for hockey here in Los Angeles, Leiweke says, "We've never made a penny on this team." He pauses, as if waiting for someone to disagree with him.

"I'm not complaining," he says. "We believe it will be a break-even proposition here in two years. We lead the league right now with a 28% increase in attendance."

I guess folks here are really excited about a Kings team that can't seem to win at home.

As for the football stadium, he says, "I know my neck is on the line. I understand this is my reputation. After all the things Phil [ Anschutz] has done here, I don't want to make this our worst moment."

It's going to be hard to top Beckham.

--

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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