Lamar Odom has joined the Mighty Sports Philippines squad preparing for the upcoming Dubai International Basketball Championship from February 1 to 9.
Odom has participated in two practices with the team. As a former member of the Los Angeles Lakers which won back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010, he is expected to bring a lot of energy and veteran leadership to the Philippine team.
"Well, just experience. There isn't anything on the basketball court I haven't seen before so hopefully I can just, you know, guide them through," Odom told reporters on Thursday. "I'm just looking forward to compete, you know, and playing hard as possible and hopefully winning, that's about it."
Even though Odom had a decent career in the NBA, Mighty Sports PH coach Charles Tiu knows he is far from being in game shape.
"To be honest I think he's still trying to find his rhythm. Let's be realistic, he hasn't played basketball in a real team setup in what, about five years? But I respect the fact that even if he just arrived yesterday morning, he practiced right away with us. But he's still going through every practice, doesn't complain. You can tell that he's trying to find his rhythm, but I like that he's very excited for the tournament. So you know, hopefully, the next few days, he can get his game going a bit," said Tiu.
Helping Odom in Mighty Sports Philippines' campaign are Justin Brownlee and Chinese Basketball Association veteran Randolph Morris, Joseph Yeo, Gab Banal, Juan Gomez de Liano, Jett Manuel, Santi Santillan, Justin Gutang, Troy Rike, Roosevelt Adams and Jeremiah Gray.
"The good thing is we have three imports with Justin Brownlee and Randolph Morris. So at least we can rotate them well. You know, I expect (Odom) to be able to provide us quality minutes. He's a leader out there. We know what he can do - bring down the ball for us, maybe shoot a bit, he could pass the ball, defend. Those are the things that I think he'd be able to help our team," added Tiu."
Brownlee, who has suited up for Mighty Sports Philippines in the past, welcomed the addition of Odom and is looking forward to sharing the floor with the former NBA player.
"I'm definitely a big fan of his game," said Brownlee, "I'm just very over-ecstatic about the opportunity to be playing on the same court with him, to be practicing, to have the camaraderie with him. So I'm just really grateful for the opportunity, and I'm just trying to make the most out of it."
In last year's edition of the tournament, the Philippines, represented by the Robert Bolick-led San Beda Lions, only managed to win one game. But this time around, Tiu said the team hopes to reach the playoffs despite the tough competition they'll be facing.
"Basically, I don't think the Philippine team has ever won in this tournament. It's tough. PBA teams have joined, college teams have joined, we really struggled because the competition's very good. The game in the Middle East is also very different, they're also very physical. So it's a big adjustment for us. These teams, they're in their best shape," explained Tiu.
"Honestly, we want to win. That's our goal really. We join tournaments to win. Realistically it's going to be a very tough climb because the teams are very tough. And honestly, we don't even have enough time to prepare. We probably are gonna have what? Five, six practices in total before playing our first game. For guys who've never played with each other, that's a big challenge for us. So hopefully we become the champion. But if not, at least, maybe make the semifinals. I think that would be a victory already for us."
ESPN5's Lyn Olavario contributed to this report.