Originally posted on Fox Olympics  |  Last updated 7/3/12
Never mind fireworks, block parties and days at the beach, Lamar Odom got an early start Monday celebrating the Fourth of July. He used the Stars and Stripes as a doormat. After all but begging Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski to remain under consideration for the Olympic team despite being deactivated by the Mavericks for a season-long lack of commitment, Odom informed Krzyzewski and Team USA chairman Jerry Colangelo on Monday that he no longer wants to be considered for the team. Or rather, he had his agent, Jeff Schwartz, call. He did so at a time when the United States might actually need Odom, a notion that seemed somewhere between far-fetched and preposterous until injuries to Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Bosh -- and over the weekend to rookie Anthony Davis -- have left Team USA perilously thin in the post. "I'm a little perplexed," Colangelo said Monday, shortly after speaking with Schwartz. "His agent wanted him to participate. He's been in and out, in and out. As of yesterday he was in. The call today brings it to the finish line. We're going to go ahead with the 15 we have." Colangelo said that nine of the 12 roster spots have been filled: Kobe Bryant, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Kevin Love and Kevin Durant. The other three spots will be filled Saturday after Team USA convenes in Las Vegas for a weeklong training camp. The remaining three spots will be determined largely by need, Colangelo said, among James Harden (scorer), Eric Gordon (shooter), Andre Igoudala (wing defender), Rudy Gay (rangy forward), Blake Griffin (power forward) and possibly Davis (post defender) In Odom, if he were fit and engaged, Team USA would have had a versatile big man who could bring the ball upcourt and also play center internationally - as he did when he started at center in helping the United States to the gold medal in the 2011 World Championships. He is also an endearing teammate. As it stands, the third option at center behind Chandler and Love could be Gay, according to Colangelo. That could be a problem against Spain's imposing frontline, featuring Pau and Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, all among the best offensive or defensive post players in the NBA. "We did give him an opportunity to get back in shape, and everyone was very excited," said Colangelo, who added that he was not upset that Odom did not personally deliver the news to him and Krzyzewski. "What changed, it doesn't matter. We'll move on." Odom said Monday, when he was introduced by the Clippers, who acquired him Friday from Dallas in a three-way trade that sent Mo Williams to Utah, that he needed to be in Los Angeles working out with his new teammates, familiarizing himself with the coaches and the team's training staff. "I just think it's more important for me to be around here," Odom said. "[The Olympics are] a tremendous opportunity, and I take it as a compliment, but what's most important, I think, right now is that I'm at my best when I'm a Clipper. ... It's always a difficult decision, especially when Coach K wants you. [But] if I have a [lousy] season and a great run in the Olympics, what are people going to remember?" Unlike some teams -- Dallas, for instance -- there does not seem to be any pressure on Odom from management not to play. President Andy Roeser and director of player personnel Gary Sacks said the decision is up to each player, and the Clippers may well have two others on the team in Paul and Griffin. Odom is not the first -- or last -- to beg out of the Olympics, and there is nothing wrong with putting your club before country. Andrew Bynum declined an invitation to Las Vegas, and Bosh and Dwyane Wade used the grind of the condensed season as legitimate cover for pulling out last week. Olympic players might pick up endorsements and goodwill from representing their country, but they are not being paid. But in Odom's case, he asked Krzyzewski for a lifeline after the NBA season was over, calling and asking not to be dropped from the provisional roster after Colangelo said he would be. "I felt bad that the year wasn't a good one for him," Krzyzewski said of Odom in a mid-May interview. "He has an opportunity if he comes in shape. He said the [World Championships] were as good an experience as he ever had in basketball. He said, 'I'd love to be given the opportunity to play again.' We would not have won the World Championship without him." When Odom deflected questions about last season with Dallas, saying he is 100 percent committed to the Clippers, that he hopes to serve as a role model for younger players and help them go deep into the playoffs, he was convincing. Odom is, in fact, earnest and well-liked by almost anyone with whom he comes into contact, and he is among the league's most selfless players on the court. And yet it is easy to imagine that not long ago he delivered the same speech to Krzyzewski, who was at least owed an apology Monday. "My focus on basketball is there," Odom said. "There are a lot of things I want to make right. I told coach that I'm 100 percent in on whatever he needs and wants to be done. I'll be his soldier." But here's some advice for the Clippers: just don't ask him to carry the flag.
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