Lamar Odom’s integration in Dallas has been a slow, frustrating process for most parties involved. That much can be gleaned from Rick Carlisle’s disappointment in press conferences and Odom’s body language alone, before we even begin to dig into the specifics of his poor on-court performance. But even with that in mind, I don’t think many people expected Odom’s current perspective to be quite as dour as it came across in a pull-back-the-curtain piece by Chris Mannix of SI.com:
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.”
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.”
By now, most players know the drill: hide the ego, stick to the safety of cliché, and avoid honesty at all costs.
Odom was asked how he felt about his situation in Dallas, and he violated one of those cardinal sins of media relations: he had the gall to answer honestly, and in ditching the script, he violated the robotic faux professionalism that contemporary media coverage demands. For those who have followed Odom throughout his career, this is hardly some new occurrence. The candid quote has long been Odom’s trademark, and his “Candyman” alter ego was interesting precisely of how contrary it ran to Odom as a person. He’s fun-loving, sure, but such a thoughtful player shares little else with the bag of empty, sugar-coated calories he often holds in his hand.
What I would ask of any reader (or basketball fan, or human being) is not restraint in this case, but reason. This is merely a man speaking his mind. He’s very obviously not where he wants to be right now, in locational, emotional, or basketball terms. He was asked a series of questions, and gave real, revealing answers. What he said isn’t what anyone in the Mavericks organization — or the more public ranks of Mavericks Nation — wants to hear, but it’s the truth. Hurling criticism Odom’s way isn’t going to change that, nor will it change his perspective. It’s not going erase what happened between him and the team (and city) he loved. And it’s sure as hell not going to fundamentally change who Lamar Odom is and has always been.
No matter what is said or written, Odom will still be miserable until he’s not. The Mavericks are hoping that turn comes sooner rather than later, but the only person who can really decide that is Odom.