Lakers' Lamar Odom top sixth man
LOS ANGELES -- Lakers forward Lamar Odom won the Sixth Man of the Year Award as the league's top reserve Tuesday.
"This has been a long time coming," said the 31-year-old Odom. "I just kept at it.
"At the end of the day, I'm blessed. Some people call it luck, I call it blessed."
Odom averaged 14.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and three assists per game while shooting 53 percent from the field, the highest shooting mark of his 12-year career.
The only requirement to win the award is for a player to come in as a reserve more games than he starts. Odom started 35 games and entered off the bench in 47. He was a starter for long stretches of the season while center Andrew Bynum was sidelined with injuries.
"I'm very happy for him," Kobe Bryant said after the Lakers' workout Tuesday. "It's extremely well-deserved."
"There's a couple that I wish that was here to see it," an emotional Odom said, fighting back tears.
Odom's six-month-old son, Jayden, died in the summer of 2006 because of sudden infant death syndrome. Odom's mother, Cathy, died of colon cancer when he was just 12 years old. His grandmother, Mildred Mercer, who raised him as a youth, died in 2003. He writes a tribute to each of them on his sneakers before every game.
When a player is in the playoffs and is in line to win one of the NBA's annual awards, the league will often schedule the press conference prior to what could potentially be the team's last home game so that there can be an additional presentation of the award in front on the player's hometown fans.
The Lakers trail their best-of-seven first round series against the Hornets 1-0 and the series shifts to New Orleans for Games 3 and 4, meaning that Wednesday's home game would be the last in the case of an unlikely sweep by the Hornets.
Earlier in the season Odom said if he ended up winning the award he would place the trophy on the scorer's table at center court for the duration of the game as a symbol of his appreciation for the fans.
"When I started to come off the bench, [the fans] just started to give me a round of applause that they've never given me before," Odom said. "They kind of let me know that they appreciated me and that felt really good ... That's something that I'll never forget."
Along with the trophy, Odom received a new Kia Sorento CUV that he will donate to the Lakers Youth Foundation.
Odom is the first player in Lakers history to win the award, which has been presented since 1983. He finished sixth in the voting in 2010. Atlanta's Jamal Crawford won it last season.
Sixth Man Curse?
Winning the sixth man award is great news for Lamar Odom, but it could be bad news for the Lakers. Since the first award was handed out for the 1982-83 season, just four players have won it and the NBA title in the same season. The last player to pull off the "double" was Toni Kukoc in 1995-96. Here's the rest of the list:
"Lamar could realistically start for any team in this league but his team-first attitude has allowed us to utilize him in a sixth man role," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement released by the team. "He could have won this award in any of the last several seasons and I'm happy that his unselfishness and talent have finally been recognized."
At the press conference Kupchak was more firm in his stance, calling Odom's selection as the league's top sixth man "long overdue." The GM also praised Odom for promoting team chemistry, calling him the most popular player in the Lakers locker room.
Odom received 96 of 117 first-place votes from the media panel, easily outdistancing Dallas guard Jason Terry, who finished a distant second with 244 total points to Odom's 513. Philadelphia's Thaddeus Young was third with 76 points, and Boston's Glen Davis finished fourth with 75.
Crawford received five first-place votes while finishing fifth, and Philadelphia's Lou Williams received a single first-place vote.
Odom was a starter during his first nine NBA seasons with the Clippers, Heat and Lakers, but moved primarily to a reserve role during the 2008-09 season. The Lakers won the NBA championship that year and the next, with Odom coming off the bench for all but five of Los Angeles' 46 playoff games.
Odom initially bristled at moving to the bench when Lakers coach Phil Jackson proposed it in training camp prior to the 2008-09 season.
"With my competitive spirit, at first I didn't accept it," Odom said. "I remember when Phil told me he wanted me to do it, I walked into the locker room and I see Pau, Kob', D [Derek Fisher] and a healthy Andrew [Bynum] and I kind of got the point. I understood right away that it would make our team a much deeper team."
Odom, who has never been an All-Star in his career after being selected with the No. 4 pick by the Clippers in 1999, said winning the award offers a bit of vindication.
"There was a point in my career where I think people were ready to call me an underachiever," Odom said. "I think winning an award like this is kind of right at those people that were ready to call me an underachiever."
Odom also played for the U.S. national team at last summer's world championships.
"It's good recognition of a player that has really filled a role for us the last couple of years," said Jackson, who advocated Odom for his first All-Star berth after his outstanding start to the current season. "To be named to the USA team was really big for him, and to start on that team was important."
Although Odom comes off the bench, he's a vital member of Los Angeles' rotation. He struggled in the Lakers' playoff-opening loss to New Orleans on Sunday, managing just 10 points and one rebound in nearly 31 minutes of play.
Odom's wife, reality-TV star Khloe Kardashian, and his mother-in-law attended the award news conference. Odom and Kardashian starred in a reality series about their married life that was filmed down the stretch of the regular season and is currently airing on the E! network.
Odom and Kardashian say they both considered the potential for distractions from the show, both while filming and after it started airing. The show is frequently a topic of conversation at the Lakers' practices, although mostly for teasing Odom.
"Just from experience and from talking to Lamar, I don't think it was a distraction," Kardashian said. "Lamar isn't the kind of guy that gets distracted by things like that. During the season, he's very focused on what he has to do for his team."
A lighter moment occurred not long after Odom's emotional display when a reporter asked what Odom planned to get for his teammates as a thank you gift after Bryant handed out expensive watches to the team following his MVP campaign.
"Maybe I'll get them a bottle of me and Khloe's fragrance," Odom said with a smile, referring to the "Unbreakable" brand he developed with his wife. "Or maybe I'll give them a DVD of the first season of the show."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.