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Ball Don't Lie

With Lamar Odom struggling, Phil Jackson reaches out to his former Sixth Man

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Lamar Odom (Getty Images)

It's easy to not feel sorry for Dallas Mavericks forward Lamar Odom. The veteran has spent his entire career in Los Angeles, Miami and back in Los Angeles again until last month. He's been a part of two championship teams, and he willingly signed off on entering a celebrity marriage, of sorts, and a part in two different "reality" TV shows (I'm cool because I put the quotation marks around "reality").

And after pouting during training camp following a vetoed trade that would have sent him away from his beloved Lakers, Odom was dealt to the Dallas Mavericks. The DEFENDING CHAMPION Dallas Mavericks, all full of cushy locker-room accoutrements and visits with the president.

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Odom has struggled, badly, to begin the season. He is averaging 6.8 points on 31 percent shooting with nearly as many turnovers as assists and has made just seven of his 37 3-point attempts despite plenty of evidence he should be passing on that particular look. Things have gotten so bad that retired Lakers coach Phil Jackson felt a need to place a call to his former do-everything forward to lend a bit of advice. From ESPN Dallas:

"[Phil Jackson] told me just to be strong and get myself together and get myself in that place mentally where I can use basketball as my sanctuary," Odom said. "He said relearn to do that through meditation and other forms to get to a place where you kind of leave everything else behind and focus on the now, the moment. And that's what I have to work on in order to put myself in a place where I can go out here and actually play the game like I used to play it."

Before you roll your eyes and pull out the mimicked violin joke that remains so, so strong, please understand that the months leading up to December's odd offseason were pretty rough on Odom. To say the absolute least. And if you think that a July-to-December respite is enough time to get over witnessing a death following the passing of a family member? Well, sod off.

Don't make excuses for Odom moping about "basketball reasons" or being out of shape. But do give him a break on this:

In July, Odom's 24-year-old cousin, a person Odom described as "one of my favorite people in the world," had been shot and lay in a New York hospital bed on life support. Odom was scheduled to travel to New York, where he was born and raised, for a Nike commercial. He flew to New York be by his cousin's side.

"I went to see my cousin and tell his mother that they had to let him go, that they had to pull the plug on him," said Odom, who unsuspectingly was about to be rocked by yet another horrific situation.

Two days later, Odom sat in the back of a chauffeur-driven SUV on his way to get a haircut when he heard the unforgettable noise.

"This guy was riding a motorcycle, he started to skid, he hits us," Odom said. "He slides into a pedestrian right on the street and kills him right there."

Money or basic cable fame or Grey Goose in a champagne flute doesn't make that stuff go away for some. Some, through no credit of their own, can push through it. Some, through no fault of their own, cannot. Odom, for whatever reason, is amongst that second group. I don't really want to find out, through experience, if I'm part of the first or second group.

I'm guessing our comment section will be just as tolerant as you'd expect, with each of its participants posting their respective email addresses along with each comment so as to continue a tactful, exacting and needed conversation about pain, regret and the aftereffects of significantly traumatic experiences.

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