Ted Green: What's with Lamar Odom's disappearing act?
About 20,000 people in the Pepsi Center on Monday night and one very conspicuous 6-foot-10-inch no-show.
Lamar Odom's night in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals: five points on one-for-eight shooting, eight rebounds, three turnovers and four fouls.
The man he often guards, Kenyon Martin, who has maybe half of Odom's ability but twice or 10 times his heart: 13 points and 15 rebounds.
K-Mart, cleaning up on Aisle 7.
I know it was a holiday. Unfortunately, Lamar took one, stealing another 140 grand of Dr. Buss' money.
Tell you how bad it was, Andrew Bynum played harder. Denver played so much volleyball on the boards, I thought their coach was Karch Kiraly.
So I ask one simple question: How in the name of purple and gold can a player with Lamar's length and basketball gifts be nearly useless in a critical playoff game? Did Chris Angel fly in from Vegas and make him disappear? Did Lamar think because the Lakers were up 2-1 on the road, having regained home-court advantage, that there was no need for urgency, thus he wouldn't play with any?
This is why Lamar Joseph Odom can be L.O., versatile and multiskilled, or he can be just an ordinary Joe, like his middle name. Like that proverbial box of chocolates from Forrest Gump's mama, you just never know what you're gonna get.
But at $14 mil a year, the Lakers have every right to know. Yet I bet they're as bewitched, bothered and bewildered as you are.
At seven points and five rebounds per game in the series, a series the Lakers need to get back to the NBA Finals, with K-Mart and the Birdman climbing all over the boards, outworking Lamar play after play ... in case no one's mentioned it, Lamar is ridiculously, stupidly overpaid. And missing in action. One more game like this and I expect to see Lamar's face on the back of a milk carton.
That why in 37 years of watching and covering the Lakers, I rank Lamar as the single most frustrating and enigmatic performer the team has ever had. His victory in that department is so overwhelming, no one is in the conversation for second place. But should we be surprised? He's made a career of this. Exciting one night, exasperating the next.
The wildly unpredictable Lamar, wonderful, then poof, gone. Impactful, like the Houston series. Invisible, like the conference finals against Denver.
I said it last summer and whether it's hitting a guy after a down game or not, I'll say it again: Mitch Kupchak should have traded Odom for Ron Artest (if and) when he had the chance, before Artest went to Houston.
Yes, the Lakers would have lost Odom's passing and ballhandling, and, when he feels like it, he's a better defensive rebounder than Artest. But Ron-Ron would have given the Lakers something much more critical when the playoffs get down and dirty like they are now. He would have given them more want-to, not to mention the meanness and toughness they still don't have, the great wills of Kobe and D-Fish notwithstanding.
That said, Lamar being Lamar, he'll probably come up with a 15-15 in Game 5, just because it's how he rolls.
And the Lakers will still win this series, whether our friend shows up or not.
But at this point, please, stop Lamar's elevator, I want to get off. The ride has finally given me motion sickness.
Ted Green formerly covered the Lakers for the L.A. Times. He is currently Senior Sports Producer for KTLA Prime News.
Photo: Lamar Odom battles Denver's Chris Andersen for a loose ball during the Nuggets' 120-101 victory over the Lakers on Monday in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals. Credit: Jack Dempsey / Associated Press