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Lamar the leader

7/26/2010

He's a vital part of the Lakers locker room, an emotional core around which teammates operate. But as far as traditional leadership roles go, Lamar Odom doesn't necessarily play one for the Lakers. This summer in Turkey with USA Basketball, that's going to change.

Writes ESPNLA.com's Dave McMenamin as the team closed the Vegas portion of its pre-World Championships training camp:

Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher might be the guys dominating the huddles for the purple and gold, but Odom has shown another side of himself for the red, white and blue. "He has [embraced it]," [Chauncey] Billups said. "He really has, man. He's come and he's taken the challenge of being one of the leaders of this team."... "It's been easy to talk to [Odom]," [Kevin] Durant said. "For a guy who's won two championships in a row, he might come in and think he's better than everybody else here, but that's not the case with Lamar. He's totally the opposite. He's been a great, great teammate so far, always encouraging the young guys and telling young guys what we need to do and it's going to be good to have him over there in Turkey."

Odom was part of the disappointing bronze medal squad from the '04 Olympics in Athens. Then, he was a young, up-and-coming player whose positional versatility and selflessness were seen as assets for the international game. He's still versatile and selfless on the floor, traits still valued by the brain trust at USA Basketball, but Odom is no longer the young pup. He's a two-time champion viewed as such by the less experienced guys on the team, and will be an authority figure on the squad the U.S. takes to Turkey. The opportunity to operate in the full spectrum of leadership roles could be enormously valuable to him.

Playing on this level with other stars helped change the approaches of top shelf talents like Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, and LeBron James, helping them become more complete players with all the required intangibles. Odom may not be impacted in quite the same way- so much of his game and personality is too well established- but he's hardly too old to benefit from performing in a different context on a team.

How any of this translates into next season with the Lakers is hard to predict, but it can't hurt. Any benefits, however subtle, could factor in as L.A. goes for the threepeat.