Lamar Odom was a Dallas Maverick during the 2011-12 season. In a move that should have worked out perfectly for a team that could have used Odom’s all-around gifts and ability to play several positions, the Mavericks traded absolutely nothing in order to acquire one of the better players on a Lakers team they had swept the postseason before on their way to the 2011 NBA championship. The idea of Odom flinging passes and smarts on a team with Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion and Vince Carter fell just short of a ‘Portlandia’ episode in terms of keeping the dream of the 1990s alive, but it also should have resulted in a confluence of savvy and skill that could have made the Mavericks contenders.
Instead, Odom and Nowitzki showed up to camp out of shape following that year’s lockout. Nowitzki recovered, to much acclaim, while Odom remained sluggish. Lamar shot 35 percent on the season, barely made an effort on either end of the floor, disappeared from the team following the All-Star break, and was asked to leave the squad before the playoffs even started. On Tuesday, Odom and his Los Angeles Clippers visited Dallas for the first time since the Mavericks dealt Odom to the Clippers. And because he’s still refusing to own up to what a waste of a year 2011-12 was, these are the things that Lamar Odom said to Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas:
"Guilty? No, no, no," Odom said when asked if he felt guilt about the way his season in Dallas unfolded. "It happens."
"I was telling one of my friends, right, that you got some people, they meet and they can be married for 40 years and after 40 years they get a divorce. They could have been high school sweethearts. Then you got people that meet one night, have a glass of wine with each other and they talk and then they're married for 100 years.
"This is a relationship-built business. Sometimes people just see things differently."
"See what someone says, I can't see what's in your heart and in your mind or what you're thinking," Odom said. "So I can say, 'F--- that garbage can,' but I love it. And you wouldn't ever know, because every time I come up to you I say, 'F--- that garbage can,' you know what I'm saying?”
No. I do not know what you’re saying.
Of course, what is this cat going to tell reporters? “Yes, I feel awful about it?” Well, actually, Lamar could say that. If I could say as much to my ex-manager from Subway when I was 19, after quitting without notice after acquiring mono at college from my turn at sandwich artistry, 33 year-old Lamar Odom can show some sense of self-awareness regarding the team that completely screwed over in 2011-12.
Listen, Lamar Odom had about as bad a summer of 2011 as summers get. And it’s absolutely fine for an NBA player to feel a healthy sense of resentment toward the league and its owners following the 2011 lockout. The NBA’s owners agreed to legal and binding contracts with its players and then, because they regretted a series of stupid decisions, were somehow legally allowed to stop making payments on those contracts for a few months.
It’s also just fine for players to dislike being treated as assets and commodities instead of humans – Odom was dealt twice in a month back in December of 2011, and one deal was allowed by the NBA. It was the move that sent him to Dallas. To the defending champions, to be sure, but away his beloved Lakers.
Let’s face facts, though. Had Laker GM Mitch Kupchak kept his Lakers intact, with Odom reprising his role as the sixth man off the Los Angeles bench, Odom would have stunk nearly as much. The guy was completely out of shape, completely unprepared to play NBA basketball, and completely oblivious to the sort of basketball (read: Boris Diaw-style) that he needed to play in order to overcome his conditioning issues. It’s true he wouldn’t have been as morose in Los Angeles as he was in Dallas, but he still would have played nearly as badly.
For all of Odom’s advancements over the last few months as a member of the Clippers – he actually looks like a basketball player again – this is still someone that is playing terrible basketball. You watch this gorgeous athlete, all 6-10 with long arms and touch for days, and you keep expecting the sort of flair and derring-do that we got to see from Lamar Odom between 1999 and 2011. Then your eyes shift to other Clippers and you tend to gloss over Lamar’s pitiful 2012-13 output. Odom is still shooting below 40 percent. He’s making 45 percent of his free throws. His Player Efficiency Rating has “jumped” from 9.2 with Dallas to 10.2 with the Clippers – and for comparison’s sake it was at 19.4 in his final year with the Lakers.
Lamar Odom is averaging nearly 22 minutes per game in March, and he’s shooting 38.6 percent on the month. He is receiving the sort of playing time that befits his talents, and yet he’s completely betraying those talents with his play. Over the first dozen years of the man’s career it was acceptable to criticize Lamar for various betrayals of his gifts – the shot selection, the inconsistent effort, getting busted for pot tests that apparently are quite easy for NBA players to avoid – but you couldn’t deny the overall work he put in. You can’t even give him that sort of recognition anymore.
That’s what’s most galling, and I say this as an Odom fan that has no personal interest in how the Clippers, Mavericks, or Lakers turn out. For over a decade Lamar Odom was one of the bigger reasons to watch the NBA. He was a fantastic athlete that mixed his significant gifts with savvy and daring. And since the Dallas Mavericks swept the Los Angeles Lakers in May of 2011, he’s been mostly somewhere else. Six points and six rebounds in 19 minutes against his former team on Tuesday night, nice, but you still can’t help but get the feeling that Lamar Odom retired from basketball in 2011. Or, worse, retired from Lamar Odom-styled basketball.
Or, worst of all, retired from his former sense of self-awareness.
There’s still time, even at age 33, to get it all back. It’s going to take a complete change in attitude, though, and fewer of these mind-numbing on-record attempts to argue his dispassion away.
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