Lamar Odom's conditioning, in his own words, 'could be better' (Getty Images)
Last year, Lamar Odom's play was so miserable that reporting on his ongoing failings became a man-bites-dog situation. Once he did something of positive note, we concluded, it wasn't worth dealing with. Until he turned it around, though, Odom's miserable play wasn't worth breathlessly documenting every time out. The hole had been dug too deeply; by Odom and Odom alone.
Upset after a near-trade to New Orleans and eventual deal to Dallas, Odom showed up out of shape and disinterested to Dallas Mavericks camp in December of 2011, despite getting to join the 2010-11 champs as they moved to defend their crown. What followed was several months of indifferent, frustrating basketball from one of the NBA's most talented players, before the Mavs gave up and sent Odom home a month before their season (and attempted championship defense, with Odom counted on to play a large role) ended.
Now, he's apparently attempting (or has already succeeded in) apologizing to Mavericks owner Mark Cuban for a season gone wrong. ESPN's Ric Bucher is reporting as much, telling his Twitter followers that …
Lamar Odom, unprompted, told me he'd like to apologize to Mark Cuban and Mavs fans for not being himself. Felt it was beyond his power.
"Felt it was beyond his power." Bucher's words, we should note, before we tear into Lamar.
Cuban, at Mavericks training camp, declined comment, according to ESPN.
[Marc J. Spears: Kobe calls Lakers his most talented team ever]
Odom's a Los Angeles Clipper right now, and according to one trustworthy reporter (and, like us, a massive Lamar Odom fan) at Clippers camp last week, he hasn't exactly come into work chiseled-out all Lakers-style. An appearance made somewhat worse by telling the Clippers' own website this, in an interview over the weekend:
On his conditioning entering training camp:
"It could be better, but that's what camp is for, to prepare for the season."
The deal that almost sent Odom to New Orleans, away from his preferred home in Los Angeles (a city that, save for the 2003-04 and 2011-12 seasons, he's played exclusively in from 1999 to 2013, barring a trade this year), and eventually to the Mavericks came on the heels of a miserable few months for the versatile forward. His team was swept out of the playoffs in May of 2011, which served as a mere annoyance in comparison to what happened in July — back home in New York to attend the funeral of his cousin, Lamar's hired SUV driver ran into a 15-year-old boy, who died a few days later.
The trades followed five months later, on the heels of a prolonged lockout. And while most NBA players were excused to be a little out of shape following the NBA barring them from working with team trainers, and the rushed training camp, Lamar took the cake-or-candy-or-whatever-confection-you-want-to-use-to-make-this-cliché-feel-better-to-you.
That, and he seemed hell-bent on punishing the Mavericks for dealing for him. Which is weird, because it was the Lakers that dealt him for nothing, leaving themselves prone against the team that swept them from the playoffs seven months before.
Remember, this was a guy who was also just seven months removed from working as the NBA's top Sixth Man, and yet he worked as one of the worst rotation players in the NBA last season. Just a year after shooting 53 percent from the floor, the 48 percent career shooter made just 35 percent of his attempts in 2011-12, and the career 70 percent free-throw shooter (all marks taken prior to 2011-12) made only 59 percent of his free throws last season.
His assists dropped, his rebounds fell precipitously, and his off-ball defense was somehow worse than his individual defense. This wasn't a case of our scouting and summation exacerbated by Odom's considerable promise, or his potential on a team that could have done great things in 2011-12 (before falling in the first round) -- he truly was that bad.
And if Lamar thinks that things were "beyond his power," well, he's off.
It must be a frustrating existence, but players get traded. Even great ones. Odom may not be among the greats, but he is amongst the pretty good ones that other teams covet. The Lakers dealt Odom for pure payroll relief and a trade exception that they later used to deal in exchange for Steve Nash last July, and while the Mavs did hamstring their own rotation by letting Tyson Chandler go, the combination of forwards including Odom could have made up for that during an inspired playoff run.
Instead, Odom's play let everyone remind themselves that 2011-12 just didn't count. That it wasn't worth it for a number of teams, including the Lakers and Mavs. Which is all nonsense, of course, because both outfits could have done better.
And if Lamar doesn't enjoy being dealt? Then sign a one-year contract every summer, instead of loading up for the long guaranteed deal, as he did back in the summer of 2009. This allows greater flexibility from year to year, taken in exchange for less money. It's a trade-off few players would enjoy, or utilize, but a necessary move if you don't want to be traded and only like playing in Los Angeles.
(And if "beyond his power" means that Odom is dealing with internal frustrations that might need medication and/or therapy? Then by all means follow that route. Because no successful NBA season as a do-it-all forward is worth being unhappy on the inside. We'd miss watching Lamar play, as he sorts things out; but we also sort of missed watching him play when he did suit up last year. Only a fool would criticize Odom for taking that healthier route.)
[Fantasy Basketball '12: Play the official game of NBA.com]
As it has been for half of LO's career, the onus is on him. He was brilliant as a rookie, and then disappeared soon after. Fantastic for a year in Miami before settling a bit in Los Angeles. A marvelous element to a fantastic championship Lakers team in 2009 and 2010, and Sixth Man nonpareil in 2011. A mess last year. A question mark, this season.
A season that he is completely in charge of. Fully within his power. Do something with it, Lamar. And understand that Mark Cuban might not be so quick to forgive.
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