"The Mavericks and I have mutually agreed that it's in the best interest of both parties for me to step away from the team," Lamar Odom said in a statement to ESPN.com. "I'm sorry that things didn't work out better for both of us, but I wish the Mavs' organization, my teammates and Dallas fans nothing but continued success in the defense of their championship."
In reality, of course, there is nothing “mutual’’ about this in the sense that the word suggests an absence of discord.
Lamar Odom is leaving but he will not be released. This is Tariq Abdul Wahad II, a case of an arguably cancerous player behind quarantined but not completely amputated. Odom was never with the Dallas Mavericks in spirit and now will not be with them in body but that doesn’t mean the stench won’t linger.
He is on the Mavs’ books for this year, and here’s a little-known fact: The Mavs’ commitment to him (and to winning this year, contrary to what Jason Terry thinks) is such that they waded into taxpayer status to have him, thus using up one of their three-years-in-five that they can pay tax without the repeater penalty coming into play.
Forget for a moment Odom’s unfortunate stats: 6.6 points and 4.1 rebounds in 20.5 minutes per game while shooting 35.2 percent from the field and 25.2 percent on 3-pointers, all-career lows.
Forget for a moment Odom’s morose Joe Btfstlk-like presence, which he barely tried to hide with a nightly pile of quotes that amounted to existential horseshit.
Consider the taxpayer decision and know that as much as anything, THAT’s why he’s a bust – one of the all-time busts in Dallas Mavericks history.
Yes, there can be a recovery from the cap carnage this summer, when the Mavs buy him out of his $8.2 million contract at a price of $2.4 mil, thus purchasing cap room that can be used in the pursuit of Deron Williams or whomever.
But that doesn’t help the defending champs now – and boy, as they are mired in the basement of the West playoff race, do they need help. (They are 31-26 and seventh in the West, with only nine games left to fix what’s broken.)
It can be argued that Odom was the 6-10 psychological albatross that’s been holding this team back, and this much is true: Stuff like showing up at 5:59 for a game drags the fellas down. Makes them roll their eyes. Makes them not trust or feel trusted.
You're in a foxhole with 20 other guys. You find out one of the 20 doesn't have somebody's back? Chain reaction, everything falls apart.
One guy is assigned to stay awake so the other 19 can sleep for a moment ... and then the 19 look up and see the 'guard' is the one sleeping? Now we’ve got 19 guys having to overwork, looking over their shoulders, not sure if all the parts are working parts.
What I’ve written repeatedly is that Odom’s end in Dallas really won’t be a Cuban/Donnie decision. From their perspective, his value is as a chess piece. No, if Odom’s end was to come, the decision would come from inside the locker room. It would be somebody like Kidd or Dirk talking as one voice with Carlisle.
And then came Saturday night in Memphis, a little more than 24 hours after Lamar’s 5:59 punch-in time for the previous game.
"No Lamar questions tonight,'' Carlisle said after the loss in Memphis.
"I'm done talking about that,'' Dirk Nowitzki said when asked a Lamar question a few minutes later.
If you are now saying that you (a fan or media member) has been calling for Odom’s head all year long? You, sir, are insignificant. You sir, are grandstanding. It doesn’t matter when you think the breaking point has been reached.
It matters when Dirk thinks the breaking point has been reached.
The Mavs should take blame for misjudging Odom’s character but not more mishandling him. I am assured that the organization exhausted all resources in trying to aid him, physically as well as mentally and emotionally. That included everything from offers of counseling to allowing him to take 10 days off to deal with his ailing father to very deliberate efforts to make him feel “loved.’’ (Why do you think the club kept sunshine-pumping that “Mavs are 0-7 when Lamar Odom does not play’’ meme?) When Lamar returned from his break, Dallas put him under the wing of respected special assistant Tim Grgurich -- so in a sense, the man had his own personal coach.
Eventually, the attempts to make it work with the sensitive Odom even including Rick Carlisle singling out the player in public (something he does rarely) when he noted that Odom wasn't "playing his ass off.''
Tough love. Soft love. No love.
The Mavs should not, however, take blame for mishandling Odom on the floor. Dallas largely ignored the slap in the face issued it by Kobe Bryant, Lamar’s big-brother figure, who said the Mavs simply don’t understand how to use Lamar the way Kobe himself would know how to utilize last season’s NBA Sixth Man of the Year.
"I hope they don't unlock that mystery,’’ Bryant said. “I know. I know how to use him and to use his skill set and this, that and the other. But with this team, the roster that they had being pretty much set, it's tough for him to be able to find his groove here."
The notion that Bryant’s BBIQ is stronger and deeper than the combined knowledge of the entire Dallas Mavericks organization is a clownish one. But it’s an insult to Odom, too; wouldn’t Lamar have been the one to help “unlock the mystery’’?
Odom’s season-long funk is in part due to the July murder of his 24-year-old cousin and to a fatal car accident days later that killed a pedestrian after the car Odom was riding in collided with a motorcycle. He's also been very open with DallasBasketball.com and elsewhere about the aftereffects of losing his mom, his grandmother and the baby he buried in 2006.
We’ve all asked the question on many occasions this season: Until what time does one get to mourn a death? Until what time does one get to be away from work to tend to an ill father? Until what time does one get to mope because of a career left turn?
The Mavs struggled with the answers to those questions, too. They finally pinpointed the time.
Friday, at 5:59 p.m.
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