Lamar Odom played one season with the Miami Heat, but it was a season that shaped the rest of Odom’s career and even how he watches basketball today.
Odom, in an interview with Shams Charania of The Vertical, spoke about his career, including his disappointment over being traded by the Lakers in 2011, and the impact the Heat and president Pat Riley had on his life.
Odom, 37, signed with the Heat in 2003 and after one season was part of the trade with the Lakers in which the Heat acquired Shaquille O’Neal.
Although Odom was happy to return to Los Angeles – he spent his first four years with the Clippers before coming to Miami – he realized he left an organization that is able to bring out the best in their players.
Odom told The Vertical he had never worked out before training camp before signing with the Heat and that he “learned how to play hard and what playing hard was,” during his season in Miami.
“There was one game when we played in Puerto Rico against the 76ers, and I shot the ball bad,” Odom said. “But I had a lot of rebounds, had two ‘and-ones’ in crunch time, and I was like, ‘Damn.’ I was down. Pat runs up to me, reads me the stat line, and says, ‘Yeah, O. I like that (expletive). I like how hard you went.’
“In Miami, if you don’t go hard, you can’t play there. That’s why I respect their program and their tradition and their style of basketball even to this day, even though they didn’t make it to the playoffs last year. Because I played there and I understand them, I can still watch them. I know what they’re going through in practice. They’re getting pushed to the limit. So if you have talent and you go to Miami, it’s going to come out and be maximized.
“We had (Dwyane) Wade, Caron (Butler), Eddie Jones, Rasual Butler, Rafer Alston, Brian Grant. We had a good nucleus. We had a gritty team, blue-collar. I took the Heat philosophy for my whole career. When I watch basketball now, I watch it through the eyes of somebody that played for the Heat.”
Odom averaged 17.1 points and 9.7 rebounds during his one season in Miami after signing his six-year, $65 million deal. He and Wade led the Heat to the second round of the playoffs.
But when the Shaq-Kobe Bryant relationship soured Riley swooped in and offered the Lakers anybody on the roster, except Wade.
Odom, Caron Butler and Grant were headed to L.A.
Odom spent seven seasons with the Lakers, where he teamed with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol to win two titles. His career, and life, spiraled out of control after leaving the Lakers. Odom has gone public about his issues with drug use which included a life-threatening drug overdose in a Las Vegas brothel in October 2015. Odom suffered multiple strokes, kidney failure and was in a coma and on life support.
MIAMI – In the summer of 2004 Pat Riley’s chips were all on the table. … Well, all but one.
Looking to land a transcendent player to help put the Miami Heat over the top in their quest for their first title, Riley assembled enough assets to pique the interest of the Los Angeles Lakers.
After giving the Lakers their pick of any combination of players on the roster with the exception of Dwyane Wade, Riley changed the course of Heat history by acquiring Shaquille O’Neal.
Riley had not acquired Brian Grant, Lamar Odom and Caron Butler with the idea of peddling them for the original ‘whale,’ but the opportunity was there. Which brings us to Monday, and Riley’s characterization of his current team.
“This team sort of reminds me of that team,” Riley said about the 2003-04 group. “Just something about it reminds me of that kind of team and that kind of spirit. So I have a good feeling about it.”
The unintended comparison was to what happened in that summer of 2004. Riley had accumulated assets with reasonable contracts and put himself in position to make a franchise-altering trade.
The notion that Riley has lost his fastball because he could not land Gordon Hayward, or even his mind because he spent about $162 million of Micky Arison’s money (with GM Andy Elisburg’s help) on three four-year contracts for James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Kelly Olynyk is misguided. Riley knew exactly what he was doing after learning Hayward was headed to Boston. He quickly recovered and re-signed his top two free agents (plus retained Wayne Ellington) and added Olynyk.
Three players that at the time were among the top 10-15 free agents still on the board.
Riley said the long-term contracts were by design to “tie up our young guys.” But later he touched on the biggest advantage the Heat have moving forward.
Considering the largest contract of the three is for $60 million (Johnson) that means all three players are signed for an average annual amount of $12.5 million to $15 million.
All reasonable. All valuable pieces if another superstar becomes available.
In a climate in which the salary cap will climb above $100 million next summer and keep climbing and Otto Porter Jr. is averaging $26.5 million, Jrue Holiday $25 million and Tim Hardaway Jr. $18 million – all nice pieces but not super stars – Johnson, Waiters and Olynyk will become more of a bargain as each year passes.
In the last two weeks 15 players have signed deals with a higher per year average than Johnson. And 19 greater than Waiters and Olynyk. To take it further, 57 players averaged more than $15 million last season, 73 more than $12.5.
Do you really think there are 72 players in the NBA who are better than Johnson or 92 players better than Waiters and Olynyk?
Riley said Monday he does not like to define players as assets. But then he did.
“They are assets,” he said. “If something comes along somewhere along the way, there are opportunities to do other things. I don’t have plans to do that, but you need those kinds of assets.”
Then, the man who wrote the book on motivational tools, knew he had found another.
“That will give them something to think about,” he said laughing.
And Riley had no choice. All three Heat free agents were looking for their first big contract and one- or two-year deals did not appeal to them. And if they would have, the annual salary would have been much higher (Waiters reportedly turned down $17 million for one year from the Lakers) making it impossible to sign all three under the cap.
O’Neal becoming available in the summer of 2005 was totally unexpected. One year ago nobody would have thought Indiana would trade Paul George but the Pacers unloaded the four-time All-Star to Oklahoma City for an unimpressive package of Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
And last summer the trade winds around Jimmy Butler started blowing, another player who two years ago no one expected would be moved. The Bulls finally pulled the trigger on a Butler deal to Minnesota last month.
Now, with his chips back on the table, do not doubt that Pat Riley would be all in if another star hits the market.
Since 2008, Miami has had just three first-round picks and with mixed success. And when the Heat selects 14th in the June 22nd NBA draft, that player he will be the 21st taken in the first round in franchise history. The list includes at least one future Hall of Famer, a proud Army veteran, three players named Smith and others who never wore a Heat uniform.
We ranked them all, from Dwyane Wade to Tim James and everyone in between.
1. Dwyane Wade, F, No. 5 overall, 2003
Taking Wade in the same draft that included his future teammates LeBron James (No. 1) and Chris Bosh (No.4) forever changed the direction of the franchise. Wade is a 12-time All-Star and future Hall of Famer. He’s averaged 23.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.7 assists in his career and helped bring the Heat three titles and play in five Finals in his 13 seasons in Miami.
2. Glen Rice, F, No. 4 overall, 1989
Rice was the Heat’s first true star although he didn’t totally blossom until after being traded to Charlotte in 1995 for Alonzo Mourning. Rice played 15 years, the first six in Miami. He was a three-time All-Star with the Hornets. He averaged 18.3 points and finished in top 10 in scoring five times.
3. Steve Smith, G, No. 5 overall, 1991
Smith bookended his 14-year career in Miami, playing his first three years and his final 13 games in 2004-05 with the Heat. He was named to the All-Rookie team in 1992 and then traded in 1994 to Atlanta in the deal that brought Kevin Willis to Miami. He went on to become an All-Star for the Hawks. Smith averaged 14.3 points and 5.4 assists.
4. Caron Butler, F, No 10 overall, 2002
Butler came to the Heat one year before Wade and was named to the All-Rookie team. He played 14 years, two with Miami before becoming a two-time All-Star with Washington. He averaged 14.1 points and 5.0 rebounds.
5. Rony Seikaly, C, No. 9 overall, 1988
The first draft pick in franchise history, Seikaly was the Heat’s starting center for six seasons before being traded to Golden State. He played 11 seasons, averaging 14.7 points, 9.5 rebounds and finishing in the top 10 in rebounding three times.
6. Michael Beasley, F, No. 2 overall, 2008
Beasley would be No. 1 on the list of first-round disappointments. The highest pick in Heat history was traded after two years, a casualty of the Big 3 coming together. He was first-team All-Rookie and has played nine years (2016-17 with the Bucks) averaging 12.6 points, including 19.2 for Minnesota his third year. Returned to Miami in 2013 for two years.
7. Justise Winslow, F, No. 10 overall, 2015
Winslow is in the still-to-be-determined category after two seasons, his last limited to 18 games because of injuries. He could eventually climb or fall on this list. Has struggled with his shooting (40 percent), otherwise, the Heat have high hopes Winslow can be a solid starter on a contending team.
8. Kevin Edwards, G, No. 20 overall, 1988
Edwards was a solid late first-round pick. He was taken after Seikaly in the team’s first draft and played 11 seasons, his first five in Miami where he started about half his games at shooting guard and was second-team All-Rookie. He averaged 10.9 points in his career.
9. Kurt Thomas, F, No. 10 overall, 1995
An underrated player for most of his career, Thomas played 18 seasons in the NBA, his first two with Heat. He averaged 8.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and was known as a tough defender who did the dirty work. He had his best years with the Knicks from 1999 to 2005.
10. Willie Burton, F, No. 9 overall, 1990
Burton was the first high pick who did not live up to expectations with fans wanting more from a skilled, athletic player. He played eight years in the NBA, half of those with the Heat. Burton averaged 10.3 points, with his best season coming in Philadelphia (15.3 average) after being waived by Miami.
11. Dorell Wright, F, No. 19 overall, 2004
The Heat drafted Wright out of high school and he sat on the bench for most of his first two years. He lasted six years in Miami, starting 56-of-211 games, before signing with Golden State in 2010 and then having his best season (16.4 points). He played 11 seasons.
12. Jason Smith, C, No. 20, 2007
One of four players drafted by the Heat in the first round still in the league, Smith has forged a nice career as a backup center, averaging more than 77 games his last three years, 74 last season in Washington. Was a draft night trade to Philadelphia for Daequan Cook.
13. Harold Miner, G, No. 12 overall, 1992
A major disappointment after coming into the league with the nickname ‘Baby Jordon’ because of his similar style to Michael Jordan. Played just four years (three with Heat), averaging 9.0 points. His career highlight was being two-time winner of the Slam Dunk contest.
14. Khalid Reeves, G, No. 12 overall, 1994
Another disappointing career from a player drafted 12th overall. Reeves played one season in Miami (six years total) before being part of the Rice-Mourning deal. He averaged 7.8 points in his career.
15. Charles Smith, G, No. 26 overall, 1997
Smith played 11 games with the Heat before being part of the trade that sent Ike Austin to the Clippers for Brent Barry. He played 142 games in a five-year NBA career, averaging 5.1 points.
16. P.J. Hairston, F, No. 26 overall, 2014
Hairston was traded to Charlotte the day after the draft for Shabazz Napier. He played 111 games in two seasons and was waived by Houston before the start of the 2016-17 season. He averaged 6.0 points.
17. Dave Jamerson, G, No. 15 overall, 1990
Jamerson had a three-year career in the NBA (90 games) after being traded on draft night to Houston along with Carl Herrera for Alec Kessler.
18. Arnett Moultrie, F, No. 27 overall, 2012
Moultrie played two seasons with Philadelphia (59 games) after being traded on draft night for Justin Hamilton and two second round picks.
19. Wayne Simien, F, No. 29 overall, 2005
Simien played his entire two-year NBA career with the Heat where he even started two games in his rookie year. He averaged 3.3 points in 51 games.
20. Tim James, F, No. 25 overall, 1999
The Miami native and UM product played just four games with the Heat and 43 games in his three-year NBA career but his life is so much more. He served in Iraq after enlisting in the U.S. Army in 2008 and eventually being promoted to Corporal. Now retired, James was honored by the Heat before a game in 2011.