Dallas Ready to Dump Lamar Odom?
After a tumultuous offseason in which Lamar Odom had to deal with a myriad of issues both having to do with basketball and in his personal life, the former NBA champion and Sixth Man of the Year seems to be lost.
Off the court this summer, Odom was forced to deal with the murder of his 24-year old cousin and the incident in which he was a passenger in a fatal car accident.
On the business side, Odom was packaged in a deal that would’ve landed the Los Angeles Lakers point guard Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets but was nixed by the league at the last minute. The reigning Sixth Man of the Year didn’t take too kindly to this and ended up forcing his way in a trade to Dallas in which the Mavs didn’t have to give up a single player in return.
As a result of all of the chaos, there was a time this offseason that Odom says he considered taking a year off from basketball. Through the first half of the season, Odom may be rethinking his decision to return to the game.
Over the course of his brief career in a Mavs’ uniform, Odom has been a lightning rod for criticism in Dallas and rightfully so. In 32 games played, the 12-year vet is averaging career-lows in nearly every statistical category including: points (7.7), field goal percentage (35.7 percent), rebounds (4.5) and assists (1.7).
The last two games played have been especially putrid for Odom, as the forward has scored a total of just six points on 3 of 14 shooting including 0-9 from 3-point range. Odom followed up those two forgettable contests by missing the last two games – one before the All-Star break in a loss to his former Lakers and one just last night as Dallas fell to the lowly New Jersey Nets – due to personal reasons.
Odom will also miss tonight’s game between Dallas and the Memphis Grizzlies with reports saying that Odom has been tending to his father, who’s been suffering from an undisclosed, non-life threatening illness.
This has led to many Mavericks’ fans longing for Dallas to cut ties with Odom, who hasn’t exactly endeared himself to the fans at the American Airlines Center this season. In the weeks leading up to the All Star break, it hasn’t been unusual to hear a smattering of boos when Odom entered the game or bricked an open jump shot.
Even though the prospect of a buyout on Odom’s contract has made the rounds on sports talk shows and on various news sites around the internet, Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban says there’s “no chance” that will happen.
“We haven’t discussed a buyout and we wouldn’t do a buyout,” Cuban told ESPN Dallas writer Tim McMahon via email. “No chance that happens at all. We want to help Lamar work through any personal issues and expect him to be a valuable contributor to the Mavs this season. Players go through challenges from time to time and we try to be (an) organization that fully supports our players when things are challenging for them. We will do the same for Lamar.”
Teammates haven’t stopped toting the company line either.
Even through this tumultuous first half of the season, leaders on this Mavs team continue to say all the right things regarding Odom.
“It’s going to work itself out one way or another,” Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd told ESPN’s Jeff Caplan. “We just hope it works itself out soon.”
While fans are understandably upset at Odom’s lack of production and frustrated with his apparent ho-hum attitude on the court in general; the reality is Odom is here to stay – even if likely only for the remainder of the season.
Realistically, Dallas has just one option to get anything in terms of assets in return for dumping Odom and that’s through trade. However, if Odom’s play was the stock market, we would be in the midst of the second great depression.
Why would any team want to trade for the struggling and possibly disgruntled Odom?
Tack on the fact that Dallas would have to receive an expiring contract in return in order to remain free agency players in the summer of 2012 and the chances of trading Odom are slim to none.
Cuban says no buy-out and there’s almost zero chance of a trade: the Mavericks are stuck with Odom.
But, in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t the worst case scenario that Odom will finish out the season on the Mavs’ roster.
The reason Dallas acquired Odom is that both he and his contract give the team plenty of flexibility going forward – both on the court and with the cap this summer.
On the floor, the Mavericks haven’t had a forward as talented as Odom to back up reigning Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki since Tim Thomas’ brief stint during the 2009-2010 season. Fans may not remember this, but the 6-10 Thomas was an integral part of that Dallas team because he added another dimension with his combination of size and skills before leaving the team due to personal reasons mid-season.
For obvious reasons, Odom has the capability to be twice the player Thomas was for the Mavs.
Regardless, even if Odom’s play never measures up to the expectations Dallas had for him coming into the year, his mere presence on the active roster will help the Mavs this postseason.
The importance of saving the legs of the 33-year old Nowitzki is as essential to this team’s success as ever. With Odom on the team, Coach Rick Carlisle has the luxury of shaving at least three to five minutes per game off Nowitzki’s court time.
Over the course of the season, that kind of rest pays dividends come playoff-time, something that will be especially critical in this shortened and condensed NBA season.
In terms of his contract, the Mavs owe Odom guaranteed money only for this season. Next year, Dallas has a team option on the $8.2 million Odom is owed for the 2012-2013 season, which the team will surely opt out of in order to create more cap space in hopes of landing Deron Williams, Dwight Howard or (best case scenario) both of the All Stars.
It may not be ideal but Odom is a low-risk, high reward asset that the Mavs have for the remainder of the season. Dallas gave up virtually nothing to acquire the big man and the team has the option for his contract to come off the books at the end of the season.
Then if by the postseason Odom regains the form that made him such a weapon for the Lakers, Dallas finds themselves with yet another starting-caliber player to throw at teams coming off the bench.
It’s a win-win situation for the Mavs going forward and something Cuban, Mavs’ GM Donnie Nelson and company aren’t likely to throw away for nothing in the middle of the season.
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