Lamar Odom hasn't played up to his talent – or his employer's expectations – this season. He'll admit that much. What he disputes, however, is that he's lost his passion for basketball after joining the Dallas Mavericks.
“If it wasn’t still there, I wouldn’t be playing," Odom said. "I would be doing something else after some of the things that I experienced."
Ten months after he was named the NBA's 2011 Sixth Man of the Year, Odom has had the worst season of his career, averaging 7.2 points and 4.4 rebounds while shooting 35.1 percent. His commitment also has been questioned: Odom sought a buyout from the Mavericks last month, but was rebuffed by owner Mark Cuban and general manager Donnie Nelson, a league source said – a claim Cuban has denied.
Yet, with a little more than a month to go before the playoffs, the Mavericks remain hopeful Odom will get on track and help strengthen their bench as they try to defend their title – the precise reason they acquired him from the Los Angeles Lakers before the start of the season.
"He seems to be more upbeat and involved," the source said. "He's trying now."
The Lakers initially tried to trade Odom to the New Orleans Hornets in a deal for Chris Paul in December. The proposed trade upset Odom, and after the NBA vetoed the deal, Lakers officials said Odom told them he wanted out of L.A.
Odom now says the trade wasn't his doing.
"Everybody knows that," he said. "It was something that they were willing to get done no matter what. I think it is OK for them to admit that."
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Publicly, at least, Odom says he's happy to be with the Mavs and he and his wife, Khloe Kardashian, have enjoyed living in Dallas. The couple's reality TV show, “Khloe & Lamar” has continued, though Odom has wondered if the show was a distraction to the Lakers last season.
“I appreciate the time in the spotlight because for a lot of us there is going to be a time when it’s over,” Odom said. “There is going to be a time when the person that asks for your autograph is going to ask somebody else.”
Mavs officials have been largely supportive of Odom during his struggles. Cuban barked at him during one game for not running the floor, but Cuban has barked at nearly every player on the roster, at some point.
“You’re comfortable because it’s never too personal," Odom said. "I’ve only been here for so long that it can’t be bad. It is what is. It’s a working relationship."
Odom took a four-game leave of absence from the team to return to L.A., reportedly because his father had a health scare. During the summer, Odom was sitting in the backseat of a car in New York on the way to his cousin’s funeral when the car collided with a motorcycle, which was propelled into a 15-year-old pedestrian boy. The boy died the following day from injuries suffered in the collision.
“I’m just trying to understand life, really,” Odom said. “You think somebody got it bad and then you turn on the news and read about somebody else’s situation, and they got it just as bad, if not worse, than you do. There is still a lot to smile about even with the trials and tribulations.
“I’m one of those dudes who feel like I go through it for a reason. The reason is to make me better.”
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