Report: Lamar Odom 'way, way better,' but still in critical condition

Ball Don't Lie
Lamar Odom speaks to the media in this July 31, 2009, file photo. (AP/Jeff Lewis, File)
Lamar Odom speaks to the media in this July 31, 2009, file photo. (AP/Jeff Lewis, File)

The condition of Lamar Odom, the 14-year NBA veteran and who has been hospitalized in Las Vegas since Tuesday, reportedly continues to improve, albeit incrementally.

Odom, 35, was rushed to Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas on Oct. 13 after being found unconscious at a legal brothel. The hospitalization followed a several-day period during which the two-time NBA champion and 2011 NBA Sixth Man of the Year reportedly drank Cognac, took too many doses of a brand of "herbal Viagra" that has been the subject of multiple warnings by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and, according to claims made by a brothel employee captured in 911 recordings released by the Nye County, Nevada, Sheriff's Office, allegedly used cocaine.

After three days of "fighting for his life" in a medically induced coma, Odom reportedly regained consciousness on Friday, resumed breathing on his own, and spoke a few words. His turn for the better continued Saturday, according to ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne:

Lamar Odom is "way, way better" and is more conversational as he remains in critical condition in a Las Vegas hospital, a source told ESPN on Saturday. [...]

Odom slept most of the day Friday but did see his kids, father and Khloe Kardashian, his estranged wife.

Odom's condition had improved to the point that he "was texting and 'speaking sentences' from his hospital bed," according to Broderick Turner and Matt Pearce of the Los Angeles Times.

In addition to the family members that have been by his side since he was first hospitalized, Odom's visitors have also included former teammates and colleagues. Longtime Los Angeles Lakers compatriot Kobe Bryant and Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak visited Odom in the hospital on Tuesday night, leaving the team's preseason game against the Sacramento Kings in Las Vegas to rush to the aid of the versatile forward who won back-to-back NBA championships as a Laker during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons. From Bill Oram of the Orange County Register:

“[Bryant is] very close to Lamar,” [Lakers head coach Byron] Scott said. “Loves him like a brother. So, it’s just a rough time for Kobe dealing with that. This is probably the first time he’s had a teammate that’s gone through something like this.”

Bryant was the only Lakers player who made it to the hospital to visit Odom before the team flight left Las Vegas.

“Kobe’s amazing,” [Metta] World Peace said. “Kobe left right after the game; he went to go visit Lamar and stayed there with him, and I thank him.”

Aside from Bryant, World Peace has perhaps the closest bond with Odom of any Lakers player.

They played together on teams in Queens, N.Y., from the time they were 11 and were Lakers teammates from 2009-11.

World Peace said his brother, Daniel Artest, is staying in a hotel across the street from Odom’s hospital.

“He’s there representing all of us from Queens,” World Peace said.

Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan — with whom Odom played on the Los Angeles Clippers during the 2012-13 season, his last in the NBA — all flew to Las Vegas to visit Odom after returning from their NBA Global Games trip to China, according to Melissa Rohlin of the L.A. Times:

"He probably has no idea we were there, but just to be there and to see him, hopefully he knows there's a lot of guys that love him and want to see him do better and want to see him get better," Griffin said before the Clippers practiced Saturday. [...]

Griffin said he learned a lot from Odom during the one season they played together.

"He was great for me in teaching me that you're going to have bad games, you're going to have a bad stretch of the season; just shake it off, stay loose, stay happy," Griffin said. "And he was great about it, keeping us happy."

It's always seemed remarkable that Odom could serve as such a source of joy and light to those close to him, given the staggering amount of loss and tragedy that have marked his life seemingly since his birth in the South Jamaica section of Queens, N.Y. — the difficult relationship with his heroin-addicted father, Joe, long an inconsistent presence in young Lamar's life, though the two later reconciled; losing his mother, Cathy Mercer, to colon cancer when he was just 12; the June 2003 death of his grandmother, Mildred Mercer, who raised him after his parents were gone; the unfathomable loss, three years to the day after Grandma Mildred, of his six-month-old son Jayden to sudden infant death syndrome; the passing of so many other family members and friends that Odom would say in 2011 that he felt "death always seems to be around me."

“I said to him, ‘My God, I don’t know how you stand up sometimes,’ ” Odom's former youth coach, Gary Charles, told the New York Times.

Odom credited Grandma Mildred for his positivity in a 2009 interview with Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins: "My grandmother was always upbeat, a naturally happy person. I think I got that from her."

Whatever its source, Odom's infectious attitude made him the emotional centerpiece of those title-winning Lakers squads and, as Clippers coach Doc Rivers said Saturday, always drawing teammates closer to him, according to Rowan Kavner of Clippers.com:

“Lamar had it right on the court,” Rivers said. “He’s the exact opposite of half the players — they don’t get it right on the floor. They don’t figure out how to play for their teammates and to be a great teammate. Most guys never get that. That’s what Lamar had.

“That’s why everyone is so emotional; he is a great teammate. Every player that he played with, you hear it now. Once he left the floor, that’s where he has a lot of demons. We talked about it a lot. I don’t know if that was the right conversation to have before a preseason game because the guys were very emotional about it, but I just thought it was the right thing to do.”

Odom's aunt, JaNean Mercer, issued a statement Friday thanking all those who have offered support during Odom's hospitalization:

No words can express the overwhelming gratitude we feel for the outpouring of support from around the world. Please continue to keep in your prayers our family and Lamar, whom we deeply love, admire and cherish.

His complete healing is paramount and our primary focus. Please respect our privacy as we continue to lean on God and trust in Him during this extremely difficult time.

Alvin Alston, a publicist for JaNean Mercer, "would not confirm whether Odom was breathing on his own or communicating more," according to the Associated Press, but did confirm that he had regained consciousness on Friday.

"He woke up, and he spoke," Alston said.

People.com reported Sunday morning that while Odom's condition has improved, he still remains in Sunrise Hospital's intensive care unit:

"Lamar today again has had moments when he is awake and more responsive," the source says. "He is still in the ICU, is receiving oxygen and sleeps a lot. He is not talking, but seems to understand when Khloé and the medical staff speak to him."

More medical tests will follow to gauge the extent of the internal damage Odom sustained during the lead-up to his hospitalization and in his subsequent medically induced coma — "his condition is still dicey," reports TMZ — but for now, at least, he seems to be in significantly better shape than he was just five days ago. Thank goodness for that.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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