As someone whose life revolves around covering games that we learned to obsess over as children, I understand that perspective is in short supply in the field of detailing for a living and loving for a lifestyle the art of pro basketball. With that in place, I cannot understand the motivation for wanting to boo the crap out of a slumping millionaire athlete with his own reality TV show, a guy who has gotten to play in either Los Angeles or Miami for the duration of his 12-year professional career before last December, and someone who plays a style of ball so gorgeous and engaging that the game seems to come effortlessly to him.
It's still stupid to boo Dallas Mavericks forward Lamar Odom, though. And former teammate Kobe Bryant agrees, as the two took to the court as opponents on Wednesday night. "That's," Kobe said, referring to the boos Odom heard during Dallas' blowout loss to the Lakers, "just stupidity." Bryant went on, as quoted by ESPN Dallas:
"It's tough," Bryant said. "He comes to a team that's pretty much set, you know what I mean? So it's hard for him to find his niche. The fans, they don't really understand what he does or how he can do it, you know what I mean?"
Yeah, we do.
On every level, it's easy to understand where the fans are coming from. Lamar Odom was signed to a very expensive contract in 2009 to act as a relative luxury for the Lakers; a sixth man making second-option cash. But because the Lakers are strangely scared of the luxury tax, the team dealt him for absolutely nothing last December, throwing both Odom and GM Mitch Kupchak (who you know did not want to make a deal that would cripple his team's already-nonexistent depth) to the wolves in an attempt to explain away Odom's fragile emotions in the wake of an agreed-upon but eventually squashed deal that would deal Lamar to New Orleans in a deal that would send Chris Paul to the Lakers.
"We thought he was going to retire," the Buss family they asked Kupchak to claim. And anyone who bought the idea that would see Lamar Odom leaving eight figures' worth of money on the table to walk away from the game he loves in a huff is an absolute moron.
So the Lakers, in a bid to save both Odom's payroll and the dollar-for-dollar luxury tax his contract would cost them, traded him to the Mavericks. In return, they received a nice, tidy, narrative. Los Angeles dealt the basic cable TV Z-star to "the defending champions." Not only the "defending champs," but, "the team that swept Los Angeles from the playoffs the year before." The Lakers didn't receive a trade exemption in the deal as they did a disarming batch of excuses.
Because of these pre-emptive strikes, Odom was left to suffer through the slings and arrows. The guy showed up out of shape, he can barely finish around the rim anymore, he's played terribly on both ends, all while working amongst a group of like-minded vets that would seem to know how to work effortlessly around his significant basketball smarts. As someone who has counted Odom amongst his favorite NBA players since 1999, it's heartbreaking. And as someone, as we've all done, who has watched a highly paid player mope his way through an entire season on our favorite team, it's upsetting.
But enough to get up from your seat, and boo? Don't we have Internet message boards for that?
If anyone is boo-worthy, this season, it's Lamar Odom. If anyone is worthy of our understanding, and the reminder that these billion-dollar 6-11 dudes with slick handles are just as human-y human as any human you've ever human'd with, it's Lamar Odom. Silently sitting on your hands won't help. Cheering him mindlessly might, but more than likely it will sound like white noise to him. Booing definitely won't do a damn thing but make it worse. Did you ever want to do better for the person that just spanked you, verbally or physically?
(S&M enthusiasts are asked to decline to respond to this in the comment section. You know who you are, "Michelle.")
It's an absolute no-win situation that was placed on several factions that know nothing but winning, over and over. The Mavs are the defending champs, and Odom's all-around gifts (if properly utilized; and coach Rick Carlisle's business card reads "Rick Carlisle, Properly Utilizing Since 2001") should have fit in perfectly as the team attempted to take advantage of spring and summer and win a second title.
Beyond that, there's no win. Odom felt at home both in Los Angeles (a city he's played in for all but one of his NBA seasons prior to 2011-12) and in the Lakers' triangle offense. Even if Kobe barely deigned to run it late last year, and Phil Jackson was let go following last season. It's hard to adapt, even when you're joining a group that boasts a significant basketball IQ, and a welcoming spirit. It's hard to change at 22 years of age, or 32.
And boos don't change anything. They've never made anything better, and they make no sense. We all get to shape our own stories, these days. We can create our own websites, our own Twitter handles, and our own message board and/or talk radio personas. Can't we articulate these frustrations in a more efficient manner?
Can't we go pound-hopeful, with Lamar Odom, in hoping that he comes through with the best May of his basketball career?
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