Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah talk about Lamar Odom


Oct 14

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It’s a somber time in the NBA these days with the sad news regarding Lamar Odom, the 14-year veteran and champion with the Los Angeles Lakers who is in critical condition after an apparent drug incident and possible stroke.

NBA players have been sending messages of support and prayer, and the heart-rending news hit the Bulls as well for former Odom teammates Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah.

“It’s really, really sad for all of us who know him and care about him and have been around him,” Gasol said after the Bulls preseason loss to the Detroit Pistons Wednesday. “It’s been a difficult day for me personally. I found about his situation and it’s really tough.”

Gasol played with the popular Odom four seasons in Los Angeles and with two championship teams.
“A great teammate,” Gasol reiterated. “Full of joy, a guy you want to have in your locker room. He’s very unselfish, an incredible guy. I had a lot of memorable moments with him. That’s why it’s so hard to see him fighting for his life. We had a very special bond. We played off each other a lot. We finished most games or all games together. We’re both versatile, unselfish. It was fun to play together. We had incredible respect for each other. We just played so well together and with that team. It’s very hard.

“I got some updates today and they weren’t good,” Gasol added. “It was an emotional day for me. Just trying to keep it together for now. Hopefully, he’ll come back and recover well. But what I heard is it’s a very difficult situation. It’s just really sad that a person with that type of heart and talent has gone through so much. I’m sure he’s gone through a lot of things these last few years. It breaks my heart. It’s been hard to be in touch with him. He’s gone through very difficult times. It’s sad and difficult situation.”

Joakim Noah played on summer AAU teams from Odom, who was born in New York.

“I was always a big fan of Lamar Odom growing up,” Noah said. “He’s kind of like a big brother. He played for the same AAU team I played for; great guy. I really wish him nothing but the best. It’s really sad what’s happening to him. I really hope it all works out for him.”

The Bulls in 1999 almost drafted Odom with the No. 1 pick in that NBA draft.

The Bulls were intrigued by the multi-skilled Odom, who had already led a tortuous young life. His father was a heroin addict and his mother died of cancer when he was young. He was a Magic Johnson-like talent, a 6-9 forward who could play like a point guard with ball handling and shooting skills. He was one of the most highly regarded high school players. He enrolled at UNLV, but was released after questions arose about test scores. He had an arrest in Las Vegas and UNLV was put on probation as payments allegedly were made to Odom by a booster. Odom then ended up at the U. of Rhode Island, which he led to a league title and he declared for the draft. He was regarded as the best talent in that draft among a top four that included Odom, Elton Brand, Steve Francis and Baron Davis.

NBA teams, though, were wary of Odom given his background, and the Bulls especially felt that had to be sure of the selection in trying to rebuild. They arranged a meeting with Odom in Rhode Island and staff went there. But no one, including his coaches, could find Odom. The Bulls would leave, eventually to return and meet with Odom. But by then there were too many doubts among all the top teams and Odom fell to No. 4. The No. 5 pick was Jonathan Bender. The Bulls selected whom they felt was the “safest” in Brand, who did share Rookie of the Year in 2000 with Francis.

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