BOSTON — As his Dallas Mavericks teammates celebrated a dramatic, 90-85 win (RECAP | BOX) over the Celtics inside a dimly lit visitors locker room on Wednesday night, Lamar Odom dressed quietly in the corner. It has been a difficult year for Odom, from the ugly end of the ’10-’11 season with the Lakers, to the murder of his 24-year old cousin in July, to the death of a 15-year old pedestrian that was caused when a motorcycle collided with an SUV Odom was a passenger in, to his shocking trade to Dallas, where Odom has struggled, averaging 6.7 points (on 28.0 shooting) and 5.0 rebounds through the Mavericks’ first ten games.
Ironically, it was a positive comment from Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle — “I thought Lamar played with a lot of energy,” he said — that brought a reporter to his locker. When told of Carlisle’s comment, Odom shrugged, his head dropping beneath his shoulders.
“I’m trying to,” Odom said, his voice trailing off.
Has it been tough?
“When you have relationships with people and there are hard times, you know how to deal with one another,” Odom said. “When you don’t, it’s obvious.”
From a basketball perspective, Odom has yet to find his niche in Dallas. His struggles have made him a frequent target of Carlisle, who has harped on Odom’s need to understand the coverages, be more alert, communicate and get in better shape; Odom’s 19.9 minutes per game are the lowest of his career.
It’s more than just basketball, however. Team sources say Odom has often appeared stressed by what they believe is the mental burden of an overwhelming offseason. Indeed, Odom told ESPN he considered taking a hiatus from the game.
Being out of Los Angeles, away from his longtime teammates and friends, many of whom he has been close with for the last seven years, has not helped. And the sting of being considered expendable by LA — Odom was part of the aborted trade that would have brought Chris Paul to the Lakers — has not worn off.
Asked if he had watched any Lakers games, Odom is succinct.
“I can’t allow myself to,” Odom said.
Was he surprised to be tossed into a deal after all the talk of the Lakers needing changes after last season’s four game sweep by the Mavericks?
“Who was talking?” Odom said. “Did it come from anybody on the inside? Because nobody on the inside said anything to me. There’s no reason to even talk about it.”
The Mavericks desperately need an effective Odom if they hope to make a run at another title. At his best, Odom is among the game’s most versatile players, a two or three-position big man who can score inside and out. He’s the reigning NBA Sixth Man award winner who, at 32, is still in his prime. His teammates genuinely like him, even if they don’t all necessarily know him.
Can Odom find a way to succeed in the Mavericks’ system?
“It’s hard for me to say,” Odom said. “I thought my game was equipped to play anywhere and everywhere. I’m not prepared, I guess, to play. I don’t know if there is anything more to say.”