Looking for a foul call, Lakers forward Lamar Odom pleads his case to an official… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)
Lamar Odom has never made an All-Star team and never won an individual award, unless you count the Eastern Conference player of the month in March 2004.
But the Lakers forward is closer than ever to taking home a personal keepsake. Odom and Dallas Mavericks guard Jason Terry are in a tight race for the NBA's Sixth Man Award.
Odom is quick to point out he's already a winner.
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"I've got two awards," he said, pausing for effect. "Two championships."
Then he got reflective about winning something on his own.
"It would be a great accomplishment," he said. "I never would have seen myself four or five years ago coming off the bench."
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One of the least selfish players in the NBA, Odom tracked down a reporter a few minutes after discussing the award possibilities. He wanted to add something, that winning it would be great for friends, family and two particular teammates.
"For guys like Kobe [Bryant] and Derek [Fisher], guys I've learned from, it's a compliment to them if something like that was to happen," he said.
Odom, 31, was somewhat maligned when the Lakers acquired him in 2004 as part of the Shaquille O'Neal trade. He was billed as a Scottie Pippen type to play alongside Bryant, but the Lakers failed to make the playoffs that season. Then they couldn't get out of the first round the next two seasons, and the pressure mounted.
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But the arrival of Pau Gasol in February 2008 changed the dynamic of the Lakers. Odom was sent to the bench, where he flourished. He has also been an occasional starter, including 34 games this season.
Odom has actually been on a roll since helping the U.S. win the gold medal at the World Championships last September in Turkey. As if to demonstrate his versatility, he even played center for Team USA.
NBA playoff standings
He is third on the Lakers in scoring (14.4 points a game) and rebounding (8.8 a game) this season. He is shooting 53.7%, easily a career high if he maintains it for the final nine regular-season games.
Terry is averaging 16.4 points, 4.2 assists and 1.1 steals, second on the Mavericks in all three categories.
Boston forward Glen Davis is also a possibility, though far behind Odom and Terry. The award will be determined by about 125 media members and announced early in the playoffs.
Terry won the award in 2009. Atlanta guard Jamal Crawford won it last season.
Magic weighs in
The Lakers say it's too early to look ahead to the postseason.
But Magic Johnson isn't one of them. The Lakers executive can already tell which potential first-round opponent would give the Lakers the most trouble: Portland, because of the "hate factor," he said.
"They don't like us and we don't like them," he said Sunday while walking in a corridor underneath Staples Center. "That would be a very physical and tough series, even though we would win and we're better overall."
The Lakers would play New Orleans in the first round if the playoffs started today, though Portland and Memphis were the other main possibilities.
Derek Fisher was given a retroactive flagrant foul, type 2, in the wake of an incident with Clippers center Chris Kaman in the Lakers' 112-104 victory last Friday.
Fisher was not suspended for any games but was fined $5,000 by the NBA.
Fisher was irritated by a screen set by Kaman and threw an elbow toward Kaman's head with 28.8 seconds left. Fisher received a technical foul at the time, and Kaman was ejected after picking up two quick techincals.
Times correspondent Mark Medina contributed to this report.