Lamar Odom, the fourth selection in the NBA draft, signed a three-year, $7.8 million contract with the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday, and immediately spoke of helping turn the perennial losers into winners.
"I'm officially in the NBA my lifetime dream," said Odom, who averaged 17.6 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game for Rhode Island last year in his only season of college basketball. "This is the opportunity of a lifetime for anybody."
"I think the sky's the limit for this team. I think it's time for Los Angeles to have two great teams; hopefully, I can bring something special to this city, this team."
The 6-foot-9 Odom will be paid $2.4 million during the upcoming season, $2.6 million in 2000-2001 and $2.8 million in 2001-2002. The Clippers hold a club option for $3.5 million in 2002-2003.
"I'm a rookie who hasn't proven himself yet. I've got to work on every aspect of my game," Odom said. "On Monday, I'm going to get right in the gym, starting my campaign for rookie of the year."
About having such a high goal, Odom said, "If every rookie isn't talking like that, then something's wrong. Maybe I might not end up as rookie of the year, maybe I'll end up as one of the best seventh men in the league, I don't know. There's something I'm going to bring this team."
Odom, who turns 20 on Nov. 6, admits he's had ups and downs. He attended three high schools during his senior year, began his college career at UNLV but didn't play, and wound up leaving Rhode Island after one season.
Even then, he changed his mind twice, first declaring himself eligible for the draft, then changing his mind, and finally changing his mind yet again.
In the weeks leading up to the draft, many felt he'd be the first overall selection. However, he fell to fourth, much to the delight of the Clippers.
"Everyone has doubts," Odom said in the team's offices at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, not far from the Staples Center, where the Clippers and Lakers will play this season. "People go through adversity to reach the mountaintop, to look down at the doubters."
"I think I've been through a lot. I have a great organization around me. When I come in, I see smiles, hugs, handshakes. I get a great feeling from everyone here."
"The Bulls weren't always the best team in the NBA. I'm not saying I'm Michael Jordan; it's got to start somewhere."
Odom figures to play small forward for the Clippers, perhaps teaming on a front line with third-year forward Maurice Taylor and second-year center Michael Olowokandi, the first overall selection in last summer's draft.
"He's a very likeable person," Clippers vice president of basketball operations Elgin Baylor said. "What I visualize him doing is making other players better because of his ability to pass the basketball, create for the other people."
"I'm excited about having a player like that, who has such a great feel, such a great understanding for the game. He certainly has the potential to be one of the better players in the league."
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