Lamar Odom, watching us watching him. (Getty Images)
Lamar Odom has a Twitter account that nearly 3 million users follow, but you wouldn't say that the 13-year NBA vet and husband of Khloe Kardashian (a marital bond that probably accounts for roughly 2.4 million of those followers, because the world is amazing) maintains a consistent presence on the service. His usage is less predictable and more erratic, prone to lengthy stretches of downtime punctuated by flurries of activity that see him fire off handfuls of updates in tight windows. Pick your favorite not-quite-reliable streak shooter; he's sort of like basketball Twitter's version of that. (Mine, of course, is John Starks, but everyone's got their own answer to questions this important.)
Following two weeks on the microblogging bench — a dry spell during which it was reported that "Khloe and Lamar," the popular E! network reality television show in which the couple stars, will be put on hold indefinitely this summer — @RealLamarOdom tore off the warm-ups Thursday night and got back in the tweet game. His return was marked by a string of missives that saw him dub himself "The Comeback Kid," simultaneously offering both first-person insight into the reasons behind Odom's disappointing season for the Dallas Mavericks and giving his detractors enough 140-character ammunition to continue to blast the former Sixth Man of the Year for having his priorities out of line.
A couple of Mavericks fans did just that Thursday night, angrily noting the apparent convenience of Odom, after agreeing to sever ties with a Dallas team that would look very overmatched and outgunned en route to a Game 3 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, now wanting to get ready to "come back" and contribute. Odom could have chosen to ignore their replies. Instead, he offered responses to their criticisms.
That's what Odom's sympathizers and apologists (you know, guys like me) have reminded those vitriolic sorts who claim that Odom just lazily jaked his way through the season because he didn't give a crap. That might be true, but it also might be that Odom's been damn near catatonic for the past few months after enduring some pretty horrendous personal trauma, including watching his cousin die and being a passenger in a car accident that killed a 15-year-old boy. That's a lot of stuff to process in a short timespan, and it's the kind of stuff that, understandably, probably makes learning your place in a matchup zone seem pretty friggin' unimportant.
Then again, Odom doesn't necessarily make it easy on his supporters to take his part. He began his Twitter jaunt by looking toward the year ahead and calling himself "The Comeback Kid" — music to the ears of basketball fans who've grown to love the 32-year-old forward's multifaceted game and hated watching him play like his operating system had a virus this year. It likely also induced teeth-grinding among Dallas fans who saw their franchise pay Odom $8.9 million for 50 games of across-the-board career lows.
An additional problem for those fans (and, probably, for others) came in the inspiration behind Odom's reputed comeback effort — or, at least, the way he phrased it:
So, getting to be a top-flight basketball player again is important insofar as it opens the door to becoming a multivertical mogul a la Sean Combs. That'll probably go over well.
Odom followed that up with a second tweet that again seemed to speak out of both sides of his mouth within the space of 140 characters, emphasizing non-basketball matters as the impetus for getting back on the court:
Working back-to-front, the "Olympics here we come" thought is particularly interesting. Odom played an integral role for the edition of the U.S. men's national basketball team that won the gold medal at the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey. Fresh off a title with the Los Angeles Lakers, Odom played out of position at center for the largely undersized squad, leading Team USA in rebounds and offering a young team the experience that comes with being an NBA champion and a veteran versed in international competition. And yet, because of Odom's horrendous performance in Dallas this year, he was reportedly removed from consideration for a spot on the roster that will represent America at the 2012 London Olympics this summer.
But injuries to big men Dwight Howard and LaMarcus Aldridge have left Team USA looking thin in the middle, and despite Kentucky Wildcats star and presumptive top overall pick Anthony Davis being added to the team's training camp roster, the dearth of healthy and available pivots could open the door to Odom once again. It sounds like he's planning on spending the next couple of months preparing for that possibility. (Either that or he just wants to head to London with the wife to watch all the fun in person.)
The other part, though, back at the beginning? That apparent doublespeak — "I want to play basketball and be good at it, I swear ... especially because it'll help me do the other things, off the court, that I really want to do" — is what drove Mavericks fans mad this year as they watched an out-of-shape and out-of-whack Odom sleepwalk through possessions, hit 35 percent of his shots and 25 percent of his 3-pointers, clash with coach Rick Carlisle and star Dirk Nowitzki, and ultimately give Mark Cuban's new-CBA-inspired remix of the defending champs nothing in his abbreviated stint in Big D.
If you want to be great, be great, Mavs fans seemed to say; there's nothing stopping you. To critiques like those, levied by fans like the ones to whom Odom responded Thursday night, the forward says, "Well, yeah, there was. You just couldn't see it."
And that makes sense; response to tragedy's an awful difficult thing to predict and analyze, and I feel pretty safe in saying that none of us would wish the stuff that Lamar Odom had to deal with this summer on our worst enemies. Then again, your job's your job, and you have to do it, because, y'know, it's your job. Odom was bad at his this year, which is why he's free to tweet about naming his theoretical next fashion line (he's already got those Rich Soil shirts) instead of being on the Mavericks bench watching them get walloped into an 0-3 hole.
Fans predisposed to think pro athletes are spoiled, coddled, rich dilettantes undeserving of our sympathy once they've broken our hearts will likely continue to think ill of Odom's lack of effort this season and seemingly fractured prioritization. Fans preferring to view players as humans rather than functionaries will likely see, marvel at and be struck dumb by the raw openness of Odom telling two fans he has never and will never meet that the reason he was bad this year at playing a game at which he has always been amazing was an inability to shake the image of his cousin being shot in the head.
Whatever you want to see, you'll be able to see it. Lamar Odom has offered us seemingly limitless options, and it only took him 140 characters to do it.
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