Delonte West and Lamar Odom took a pretty fun trip to the zoo

Whether you're suffering from physical pain or emotional hurt, animal-assisted therapy can do wonders for your wounds. So with guard Delonte West nursing a broken finger and forward Lamar Odom nursing a broken, um, everything, Monday seemed like as good a time as any for the two Dallas Mavericks to join a group of local students for a visit to the Dallas Zoo.

According to Jeff Caplan at ESPN Dallas, West and Odom joined students for a conservation program that brought them up close and personal with penguins, alligators, snakes and giraffes. Odom kept his distance, but as Caplan reports, West "seemed to thoroughly enjoy" more personal (if fictional) encounters:

West [...] was more than ready to interact with the students and, well, the animals for that matter.

"Well, I think they noticed as soon as I came into the zoo my natural animal instinct, you know what I mean?" Delonte said, speaking of the actual animals. "I got a chance to eat with the lions, you know? They had Lamar playing with the penguins, but they needed me for the more animalistic-type of things, carnivore-type of things. So, I also had a chance to give birth to a baby cheetah today and I'm just overwhelmed with the experience to be amongst my own and my peers."

None of that is exactly true, but it did sound good.

West went on to discuss his affinity for the animal kingdom, saying that as a kid he "had a pet raccoon once" and often "just ran out in the woods [and took] whatever [he] could find ... home as a pet."

Given that lifelong kinship — about which Caplan suggests the Washington, D.C.-bred guard is lying — it makes sense that West was so excited to continue his visit: "... I think we're getting ready to go see some of the lions and gorillas, my own kind and hopefully we can have a nice bonding experience and they will accept me as the pack leader."

It's great to hear that Delonte is ready to take on a leadership role, even if it is only (at this point) specifically within the culture of a colony of caged animals. I'm sure Dallas coach Rick Carlisle would prefer that West similarly rise up in the Mavs' locker room, but still, this is a big step.

Maybe West will have accrued enough experience as the alpha male by the time he fully returns from his fractured right ring finger — he's listed as questionable for Tuesday night's intra-state skirmish with the Houston Rockets, but said he might not be able to return until next week — to tell Jason Terry to stop pretending he is an airplane. I know JET's committed to his branding, but I have to assume that an army of lions and gorillas led by Delonte West would be pretty persuasive.

West has missed 20 games since injuring his finger against the Philadelphia 76ers on Feb. 15. The Mavs have gone 9-11 in that stretch without the eighth-year guard out of St. Joseph's, who was averaging 8.3 points, 3.4 assists and 2.5 rebounds in 22.7 minutes per game when he went down.

After a tumultuous offseason during which one of his cousins died, he was a passenger in an SUV that was involved in an accident that killed a teenage cyclist and he was traded from the Los Angeles Lakers, where he'd spent seven years and won two NBA championships, Odom is having his worst year as a pro, shooting just 34.3 percent from the floor, 24 percent from long range and 58.7 percent from the free-throw line.

Hat-tip to Zach Lowe of Sports Illustrated's The Point Forward blog.

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