No player on the Lakers has been more positively affected by Pau Gasol's presence than Lamar Odom. Friday's game against Dallas was one of Odom's finest efforts as a Laker, and probably the most impressive performance he has had against any team that is not Phoenix. Odom has always been able to pound inside and dominate the smaller Suns, and he looked like that guy again on Friday night against the Mavs.
Without Gasol for the past nine games, Odom looked like last year's player - tentative, frustrated, and stressed. After clanging a jumper or losing a ball out of bounds, he would unveil the Odom Smirk - an infuriating, creepy, and out-of-place grin after making a bad play in a critical moment. With Gasol back on the court, though, the Odom Smirk turned into a happy Lamar smile. Lamar just loves playing with Gasol. He no longer has to be as big of a scoring option, and can instead show off his fantastic interior passing and his ballhandling skills on the wing.
Last night, though, Lamar showed the whole package. For one of the few times I've seen, he simply dominated the game. Instead of tentatively standing 20 feet away while defenders backed off, he charged into the post repeatedly, or drove assertively to force contact. Once the defender came, he either dumped it to Gasol, or ball-faked and went up with his RIGHT hand! His RIGHT!
If Lamar could do this every game, and Sasha could hit 1998 Ray Allen-esque jumpers, the Lakers would never lose. Of course, that's not possible, but it sure was fun watching it for one game. LA is still a team working out the kinks, and it's uncertain how Bynum will integrate when he gets back, but it's easy to forget sometime how incredibly talented Lamar Odom really is. I hope I get the chance to notice that again before the season ends.
Edit: Do you think Pau and Kobe laugh over this play now?
Also, I'm glad I can now laugh about the Smush Parker era.