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NBA Draft: Darius Johnson-Odom named after Magic Johnson

June 29, 2012|By Mark Medina

Earvin Johnson is coming to the Lakers -- but it's not in the form of Magic having another front-office position with the Lakers or somehow turning back the clock to the "Showtime" era and making his third comeback.

This comes in the form of newly drafted guard Darius Johnson-Odom. The former Marquette guard doesn't just have Lamar Odom's surname, his middle name is Earvin -- inspired by the original Earvin "Magic" Johnson.

"That's exactly what my mom named me after," said Johnson-Odom, whom the Lakers acquired out of the No. 55 pick from the Dallas Mavericks for $500,000, as reported by The Times' Mike Breshanan. "I don't know why. She said he was her favorite player. I wouldn't tell my dad this, but I think she kind of likes him."

Well, who wouldn't? Johnson brought the Lakers' five NBA championships. He left the Hollywood crowd in awe with his dazzling passes, insatiable competitiveness and infectious smile.

But don't get it twisted. Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak may have pegged Johnson-Odom in the mid-to-late 30s on the draft board. He gushed about Johnson-Odom's athleticism and work ethic, and predicted "he’ll be a really, really good player leading into training camp." But Johnson-Odom is hardly the second coming of one of the all-time greatest Lakers.

"I know I can't do the things he did," Johnson-Odom said of Magic. "But what you can take from him is his leadership, being a player and being a great competitor. That's what he brought to the table when he wore that purple and gold. That's what I'm trying to do."

What Johnson-Odom did as a combo guard at Marquette involved striking a good balance between scoring and passing. After playing his freshman year at Hutchinson Community College, Johnson-Odom averaged 15.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists in his three seasons with Marquette, shooting 44.4% from the field and 40.3% from three-point range. He was the team's defensive player of the year as a sophomore.

Though he's listed as 6-foot-2, Johnson-Odom said he's elicited comparisons with Oklahoma City guard James Harden because of his consistent reserve play (not counting the NBA Finals).

Johnson-Odom could also spark comparisons to former Laker Derek Fisher for his strong physique, left-handed shot and winning attitude, though Kupchak described Johnson-Odom as "ridiculously athletic."

ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas touted him as a "a really hard worker who goes after it.”

Still, Johnson-Odom sounded aware that there's skepticism about his game.

"A lot of people don't think I can play the point. A lot of people don't think I have the size to play the 2," he said. "I definitely agree with them. I haven't shown the skills to play at 1. I don't have the height to play at 2. But I always find a way to win. I think for me, my main concern is trying to find the right fit for the team."

Johnson-Odom will have time in the Las Vegas Summer League and in training camp to prove that point. But for now, he's proving a fit because of his name.

"The way that it sounds, it should be a historical year next year," he said.

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com. Follow the Lakers blog on Twitter.

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