HONOLULU – Lamar Odom did his best to ignore the offseason trade talk.
There was no way, because it never went away.
The versatile 6-foot-10 forward, who has shown an ability to play everywhere on the court during a productive eight-year NBA career, professes to be a glass half-full person.
But, he acknowledged Thursday, the rumors did hurt.
“It bothers you a little bit, especially when you thought you’d proven yourself to be worthy of being here,” said Odom, about to begin his fourth season with the Los Angeles Lakers, assuming he’s not moved before the end of the month.
“Of course it bothers you, especially when you’re in a place where you want to be,” he said. “But this is a business. If you worked for a law firm based in St. Louis, Missouri, and you loved St. Louis, and somebody said the firm was moving to Austin, Texas, you wouldn’t want to go.”
Odom, who turns 28 next month, was reportedly part of a package offered to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Garnett and was also mentioned in connection with a potential deal involving Indiana’s Jermaine O’Neal. Nothing happened.
“(Trade talk) happens because I can play,” Odom said. “Sometimes, you take it as a compliment, but this is where I want to play basketball for the rest of my career. This is where I want to win championships. Hopefully, I can go out there and play at a high level and it will happen.
“Hopefully this is the last stop for Mr. Odom.”
Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who called for an upgraded roster during the offseason, expressed the opinion that trade rumors are part of the game.
“It comes with the territory, that’s the nature of the beast,” Bryant said. “The players understand that.”
Odom said he’s always gotten along with Bryant, and he loves playing with the two-time defending NBA scoring champion.
“I’ve known him since I was 15 or 16,” Odom said. “He’s always told me to be aggressive, shoot the ball. I understand him because he strives for excellence on the court. If you know him, (winning) is important to him, to the utmost.
“I’ve seen him play sick, I’ve seen him play hurt. If you’re an athlete, you have to respect that.”
The left-handed Odom has had to fight through several injuries since joining the Lakers. He’s undergone surgery during the past two offseasons on his shooting shoulder.
As he spoke Thursday, he wore an ice pack on his left shoulder and another on his right knee.
“It feels like I had surgery on it twice,” Odom said with a smile when asked how his shoulder felt. “Injuries happen. Sometimes, you have to be patient. When you’re an athlete, there’s nothing more frustrating than getting hurt.”
Speaking following the third day of training camp, Odom said he’s optimistic he’ll be ready Oct. 30, when the Lakers open the season against Houston. He’s not so sure about the exhibition season, but that doesn’t really matter.
Odom averaged 15.9 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists in 56 games last season and is averaging 15.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists in his career.
“His teammates enjoy playing with him,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “He shares the ball.”
Playing despite a torn labrum in his shoulder, Odom averaged 19.4 points, 13.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists in the first round of the playoffs last spring, when the Lakers lost to Phoenix in five games. Surgery followed two weeks later.
Odom said he strongly considered retirement after Jayden Odom, his 6 1/2 -month-old son, suffocated in his crib and died on June 28, 2006.
“That’s something that will never go away,” Odom said. “Him being a special kid like he was will never leave. It’s not the typical pattern of life, a parent burying a child. He’s angelic. There’s more kids who die from SIDS from 1-to-9 months than any disease or disaster.”
Odom is under contract for this season at $13.524 million and next season at $14.559 million. He’s uncertain about his future after that, but thinks about it often.
“I would like to have the strength to finish out this contract,” he said. “And then, who knows? I might be ready to conquer something else.
“I’m finding peace and comfort in my life on and off the court. There’s a lot more to my life than being a basketball player.”