Lamar Odom won't have to visit Dallas on Wednesday night, he won't be faced with the indignity of playing his former team in Texas until late March, but he and his Clippers will face the Mavericks in Los Angeles on Wednesday and the press has already started to round up quotes from the forward in anticipation. The Mavs dealt for Odom a year ago in the hopes that his all-around game would serve as the perfect placeholder for a team rebuilding on the fly following its 2011 NBA title, and instead Odom turned in a one-year drop-off for the ages. Lamar didn't even make it back to the postseason with the Mavs, while they attempted to defend their title, as the team sent the out of shape defending Sixth Man of the Year home after tiring of his lackluster play.
With the Mavs and one-time combatant Mark Cuban in town, Odom has responded with an expected — if still somewhat worrying — shrug of the shoulders. From the Los Angeles Times:
When asked after practice whether he had any emotions about playing Dallas, Odom said, "Naw."
"It was a blur, man," Odom replied. "I wasn't there either, like mentally."
"The people are nice," Odom said of Dallas. "Great fans.
"Sometimes we make pit stops in some places. I remember the people and the city. Basketball just wasn't there for me at that time."
It's true that, for just about everyone associated with the National Basketball Association, the seven-month sprint between the beginning of the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season and the end of the 2012 Finals was a bit of a blur. And it's not as if Odom isn't telling us anything we don't know — anyone who watched Lamar play in Mavericks blue last season could tell that he "wasn't there," like, "mentally."
And, frankly, it's nice that he's at least copping to what we had guessed at. In the wake of a trade from his home and favorite team — two trades, really, if you count the NBA-rescinded deal that would have sent Odom to New Orleans — Odom just didn't seem to care about the game anymore. "Basketball just wasn't there for me at that time" is absolutely the best way to put things.
Odom could start to make up for that year off, though, by attempting to start putting balls in baskets with greater frequency. He made a choice to return to the NBA last year as a free agent — the guy could have taken a year off or retired to basic cable ignominy — and sign a big contract to act like a professional. Odom decided to show up to training camp way out of shape for the second consecutive season, and so far he's managed to top his legendary statistical drop-off from last season with an even crummier season in 2012-13.
Lamar is shooting just under 30 percent from the floor. That's an ungodly mark, propped up by what has been a successful three-game stretch of late that has seen LO make eight of his last 15 shots over the last three Clipper games. He has nearly as many turnovers (12) as he does field goals (17) on the season, and while singling out per-game stats isn't the nicest thing to do to players asked to work off the bench, it's probably reasonable to assume that the Clippers were expecting a little more than the 2.2 points per game Odom is averaging this season while making eight and a half million dollars this season.
All the more reason for LO to act contrite, tactful, professional, and speak candidly about his time in Dallas, so as not to give the Mavericks any more ammunition. Odom was further quoted as calling the Mavericks a "class organization," and he pointed out that he "respect(s) everybody over there."
Maybe the low point wasn't 2011-12 for Lamar Odom. Maybe it was November of 2012, a month that saw Odom miss 34 of 44 shots while only cracking the 17 minutes barrier twice in games he appeared in. Maybe this three-game turnaround, his improving conditioning, and this honest appraisal of his time spent in Dallas will spark the rebirth of the player we loved watching so much up until May of 2011. Despite the "reality" (I put it in quotes because I'm rebellious, maaaaan) show silliness, Lamar Odom has long been one of our favorite players. And the way he's fallen apart over the last 12 months has been stunning, to say the least.
Perhaps the honest tone is a warming sign of good things to come. We can only hope, and the Mavs can only seethe.
Outside the Game from Yahoo! Sports:
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