COMMENTARY | The news surrounding former Los Angeles Lakers star Lamar Odom is getting increasingly worse.
There's a lot of misinformation floating around about alleged drug abuse, including which drugs he's taken and how long it's been going on. The sad facts are that he's out of work and in some real trouble after an arrest on suspicion of DUI last week.
He's had issues with substance abuse in the past, so there are red flags when it comes to all of the troubling reports.
Michael Beasley is a different story -- he's a young player who's already squandered plenty of potential and talent. He hasn't had the personal or team success of Odom, nor is he on a path to. Presumably at age 24, he has time to turn things around after multiple incidents involving marijuana. But the Phoenix Suns saw enough of an issue present to agree to a contract buyout and cut bait on Tuesday. In other words, he's been so bad that they thought it was best to pay him not to play for them. That doesn't bode well for a career resurrection.
Where the Lakers come in is that they're in the middle of rumors involving both players. Could either be a fit in Los Angeles? Before the Lakers even consider it, both players need to get help.
Lamar's troubled life
The saga of Lamar Odom began long before he stepped foot onto an NBA court. The lovable Laker champion has been through enough personal tragedy for several lifetimes. Like many players before him, he beat incredible odds to secure a lifestyle that would presumably make worrying about financial security entirely unnecessary for him and his family for generations.
Whether or not there's a happy ending is still in question, but the beginning of Odom's story is particularly troubling:
Via Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated in 2009 (as transcribed by Yahoo's Ball Don't Lie):
"The happiest Laker is the one whose father was addicted to heroin, whose mother died of colon cancer when he was 12, who attended three high schools, had his first college scholarship revoked before the fall semester of his freshman year, became a subject of three college investigations, declared for the NBA draft, tried unsuccessfully to pull out of the draft, was picked by arguably the worst franchise in sports, violated the league's anti-drug policy twice within eight months and after finally getting his life together, went home to New York City for an aunt's funeral and wound up burying his 6½-month-old son, then getting robbed at gunpoint."
Those are enough challenges to keep someone as gifted as Odom from ever realizing his dream of playing in the NBA, let alone have the career he's had that's included two championships and a Sixth Man of the Year Award.
Since then, he's seen a cousin murdered, been involved in a terrible accident that killed a teenage cyclist, and was shaken by a blocked trade that would have sent him to the New Orleans Hornets in exchange for Chris Paul.
Given the career-lows he's seen on the court over the past two seasons, it's not shocking that his personal demons crept up again when grouped with everything else. Now, there are conflicting reports as to whether or not he is in rehab. Is he or isn't he? No one seems to know the definitive answer, and it's not worth trying to sort out here for a developing story that's as fluid as any.
What is clear, however, is that the circumstances in Odom's past and recent life dictate that he needs family, friends and anyone who cares about him on his side. While that may not include the Lakers in a basketball sense, it's his former teammates who need to be there for him on a personal level.
Basketball is Lamar's escape, but before he can resume playing, he's got to get real help in his life.
Is Marijuana killing Beasley's career, or is he just a bust?
Beasley entered the NBA with projections of being a superstar for good reason. The 6-foot-9-inch swingman has all the physical tools and skills to be a dominant player. But Beasley's tenure in the NBA has been uninspiring at best. The lefty out of Kansas State has progressively gotten worse.
Michael Beasley year-by-year production:
2008-09: 13.9 points, 5.4 rebounds per game, 17.2 PER
2009-10: 14.8 points, 6.4 rebounds per game, 16.1 PER
2010-11: 19.2 points, 5.6 rebounds per game, 15.5 PER
2011-12: 11.5 points, 4.4 rebounds per game, 13.0 PER
2012-13: 10.1 points, 3.8 rebounds per game, 10.8 PER
These numbers don't tell the whole story. Plenty of players have gone into the league and for a myriad of reasons regressed. Beasley's case, however, is unique because of the circumstantial evidence pointing to his drug habit being a catalyst for so many struggles on the court. He's been downright awful on the floor recently (ironically, he torched the Lakers in a Jan. 30, 2013 upset victory and totaled 27 points, six rebounds and five steals), and there's a very feasible explanation when looking at his history.
In June of 2011, he was ticketed for speeding and possession of marijuana in a Minneapolis suburb while playing with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He's admitted to using during his days with the Miami Heat and even entered the NBA's drug treatment program. His tenure with the Suns was supposed to be drug-free when he swore of the habit for good upon coming to Phoenix.
Yet, there he was on Aug. 6, getting pulled over in Arizona when an officer smelled marijuana on him and found three cigarettes in his car. Phoenix was done at that point, but it's obvious he still needs help.
Unlike Odom, Beasley doesn't appear to have a strong support system or the right people around him. Lamar has that -- everyone wants to help him and is showing genuine concern. But both players need more help than they're currently getting or allowing themselves to receive.
Where do the Lakers fit in?
Again, from a basketball standpoint, the Lakers shouldn't get involved. The Suns learned the hard way that these problems don't just go away. Beasley is not only in the midst of a real issue, but he's not very good at basketball anymore. As fans clamor to sign him based on name and potential, the numbers don't lie -- he's not going to help a team until he undergoes substantial change. At this point, it's hard to envision where that will come from.
Odom's case is a little more complex. He's a lifetime member of the Lakers family and would be embraced in Los Angeles with open arms. Fans want him back, his former teammates and other players across the league would go to battle with him any day. But before any of that happens, Odom has to fight his own battles. I wrote not long ago that he needs to take care of himself before basketball comes into play, despite the court being a place where he's found refuge in the past.
In terms of distractions, the Lakers just got rid of the biggest one they've had in years in Dwight Howard and his traveling circus. With a new season nearly underway, they don't need either player to come in and recreate any semblance of that atmosphere (though nobody does it like Dwight!). In L.A., there's always an element of drama, but, in this case, it's best to mitigate it whenever possible. The Lakers have that opportunity by staying away from both players.
Off the floor, though, it stands to reason that anyone inside the organization would be there for Odom if called. As for Beasley, here's to hoping he wakes up when another team (not the Lakers) gives him his next opportunity.
Want to get in touch with the author? Catch up with him on Twitter @MikeJonesTweets.Michael C. Jones is a Southern California-based journalist and was the 2012 Contributor of the Year. He is the founding editor of Sports Out West and contributes to SB Nation.
- Sports & Recreation
- Michael Beasley
- Lamar Odom