All of Our Black Hats

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 9, 2012 under Commentary | 16 Comments to Read

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The Lamar Odom era in Dallas may have been short and bitter, but his failures this season have secured a historical standing as this organization’s greatest instance of missed opportunity. Steve Nash’s departure was a calculated decision that was not at all unfounded. The 2006 Finals were a golden opportunity, but ended with a run-in with the supernatural. But Odom’s downfall in Dallas (now cemented by a mutual agreement by Odom and the Mavs to part ways) wasn’t a product of betrayed reason or an encounter with the divine. It was solely a shortcoming of men, and an unfortunate — if common — triumph of flaws over circumstance.

Odom has had a rough run — in life, and certainly of late — but it was his introversion that did him in this season. He surveys the interior of his head with the same scrutiny that focuses his ever-impressive court vision, but a man can only peer through darkness for so long before it starts to take him. There are surely others who would have taken Odom’s situation in stilted but continuous stride, yet with this specific combination of events and this specific man, it was all a bit too much.

We all have our limits, and this season, Odom found his. It’s not the first time that some event or another has weighed on Odom’s psyche (and goodness, does he carry the weight for a whole mess of men), but this was the first time in his career that he was paralyzed by what befell him. It’s still silly to make the man a villain merely for being a man, but in a sporting culture where immortality is more than just an ideal, I can’t say I’m all that surprised that the narrative has been spun the way it has. Stories of mortal exploits are rich if parsed in a suitable way, but will nonetheless come up short next to the mythologies of the on-court gods. Odom didn’t rise above it all, he didn’t overcome adversity, and he didn’t make hardship into a personal triumph. He ducked his Hollywood ending and did what all of us do and have done from time to time — submitted to circumstances that, for whatever reason, got the better of him.

When Donnie Nelson acquired Odom in exchange for a sheet of stamps and a sock-full of quarters, the Mavericks were presented with an incredible chance for makeshift improvement. Dallas had lost Tyson Chandler (and Caron Butler, and J.J. Barea, and DeShawn Stevenson, and Peja Stojakovic…), but had managed to add a hugely talented player despite their complete lack of cap room and dearth of tradeable assets. That’s nothing short of a modern basketball miracle, and that Odom’s surprise acquisition presented Dallas with so many tantalizing lineup possibilities only made his non-start that much more disappointing. The light just went out for Odom, and while I don’t blame any Maverick player, coach, or fan for being frustrated with what’s transpired over the last four months, that feeling seems rooted in a want for what could have been.

He should have tried harder. He should have cared more. His head and heart should have been with this team at this juncture. But the time for all of that has passed, and now too, has Odom’s tenure. There’s no specific reason why Odom didn’t or couldn’t find some kind of success with the Mavs, other than the fact that he’s as flawed as the rest of us. He’s unfocused and wholly imperfect, and although his recent failures may make him unique relative to his driven peers, they cast him as but one of many who have been bested by the unfortunate hazards of being human.

  • Jacob

    me: odom sucks
      i have no idea what goes on in his head during the game
      it never seems like he has any intensity- Jacob, 5/26/2009

  • todmod

    I know Odom went through unique circumstances (and I don't envy what went on in his personal life), but he really did hurt the team both this year and next (with his $2.4 buyout against the cap) by giving them absolutely nothing of value.  All for a trade that he personally requested.  He seemed to essentially take the year off while getting fully compensated (with a little bonus coming for next year).  It really shouldn't sit well with Mavs fans at all.

    • todmod

       Basically, I'd have had much more respect for Odom if he decided that he couldn't handle playing this year and forfeited his salary.  That would be a very personal, understandable decision. But that wasn't going to happen.

  • Dr. Clarkus

    Does the team option for next year (and buyout) have any trade value this offseason?

    • DW94

       It's not a team option. His salary is only guaranteed to 2.4 million if he's waived on or before June 29. Otherwise his salary is fully guaranteed.

      As for trade value – I don't know. Maybe the Mavs can find a somebody useful with an expiring contract (or something close) on a team whose owner is in serious penny pincher mode. Trade Odom for hypothetical player, the opposing team waives him, and they cash in the savings.

      • Dr. Clarkus

        That's basically the same as a $8.2mm team option with a $2.4mm buyout right? Semantics. That's what I was thinking in regards to the trade value.

  • KevinH

    I don't think many people would mail it in while cashing a big fat check so please don't try to act like most people would have done what Lamar did in the same situation which is quit.  Many many people have gone through far worse things then Lamar Odom ever has and continue to fulfill there obligations in life. My father continued to work while battling stage 4 cancer and receiving chemotherapy. I am not holding him up as a Hero because I know many many others have done the same thing but not poor Lamar. I swear there must be a bleeding heart gene if your average sports writer.   This guy has been a jackass his entire life going back to his Rhode Island days. Can't this guy ever rise above anything?   Its amazing how problems follow certain individuals all though there life.    Is it bad luck or is it the idividual? Should we wallow in self pity our entire life dwelling on the past and refusing to acknowledge all the good things that have been given to us?  I know where I come down in Lamar's case and its the guy staring at him in the mirror who is 99% of the problem.

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  • CoL

    With all due respect, you are taking it too lightly on him, Rob and not calling it completely as  is.
    I'm not saying we should crucify him, but let's also not scapegoat him with the personal issues thing.

    In the end no reasonable fan expected him to be a big possitive impact,  but there's a difference between being out of shape, out of focus, troubled by personal issues and just straight out not trying or not caring. This is someone that could have ended on the hornets, and was lucky to come to the champions with management that was extremately patient, and a coach that tried every possible way to incorporate him productively.

    Whatever his issues were and however they affect him, his problem is he flat out couldn't care less about the mavericks, he stood there looking at opponent players outrebound him, missed wide open layups, took ill advised shots.
    even after all his season-long troubles, when he had that one decent game 2 weeks ago, the fans instantly  went behind him and supported him, and then he went back to patiently waiting for his buyout so he can get 8million+ to sit at home and plan his exit to LA.

    Many players have struggled here, for being out of shape, out of focus, old, untalented. Not Lamar Odom, he was disrespectful to the organization, his teammates and the fans, he was a 9 million trojan horse, and should be held accounted for it.

  • Jcharter23

    I'm from NY and so is he, it's a joke!! He is pathetic!! He is paid millions of $$$ to play the game he grew up playing for free!!! Listen I know why he was pissed .. Mavs were renting him and unless he was awsome there was no way they would pick up his option next year.. Cap purposes.. He needed to Man Up play his ass off and he would of been on one of the teams of his choice with a deal starting btw 5 and 7 mill a year!!! He made almost 80 mill in his career suck it up cry baby and move on.. He should thank god for his basketball gift and move on… Dude is a Super talented player!! One of the most gifted players in the game… What a waste.

  • Ralphie

    Uhm, missing one season of Odom a bigger tragedy than missing out on Steve Nash and Dirk playing out the string of thier careers together? We basically traded Steve Nash for Dampier.
    I'd take 5 Odoms if we could do that over again.

  • LRod

    And don't forget, the team went over the salary-tax limit to get him and has now wasted 1 of the 2-in-5 exceptions…

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  • NCMavsFan01

    I am sorry, Lamar Odom has been a significant disappointment but in the annals of Mavericks “missed opportunities” he is a minor miss when compared with another very gifted big man – Roy Tarpley.  Roy's damage was more off the court than on but not only did he impact play on the court, by not being there, he damaged the Mavericks financially, something that took nearly a decade to recover from.  Let us hope with Lamar we end up with addition by subtraction.  Go Mavs!

  • adam

    what about when dirk was going through the multiple-identity con woman ex-girlfriend thing? fairly significant personal issues, media speculation, police reports… how did that work out? if someone expects a paycheck for playing basketball, then they better be able to play basketball. if not, that's fine, life happens, but he decided to drag it out over the whole season and collect his money for doing nothing. he should be embarrassed.

  • FromWayDowntown

    Shit like what Odom is pulling off for the whole season just shows that the players weren't screwed over with the current CBA.
    Odom's behavior is pathetic and I really don't understand why Rob went so light on him. Odom's assault on the franchise is one of the main reasons why the Mavs are so struggling. He scammed his way to millions of $ and obviously never had the intention to earn them. Disgusting.