In Lamar Odom the Mavericks Trust?
Despite his being a complete non-factor for most of this season, the Dallas Mavericks continue to stand by Lamar Odom.
Through 45 games played in the 2011-2012 NBA season, Odom continues to average career-lows in virtually every statically category. His play at times this year could be described as lackadaisical at best and his desire to give a consistent effort on the floor has been questioned time and time again.
Since returning from a 10-day absence earlier this season, Odom appears to be showing some signs of life. While it has rarely shown up in the box score, Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle hasn’t been shy about praising Odom’s renewed effort on the floor – this despite benching Odom just two games ago for the entirety of a 104-87 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
Tuesday night, however, provided flashes of what Odom can bring to this team if and when he’s properly motivated.
Despite checking into Tuesday’s contest to the sound of more than a few boos from the home crowd, Odom knocked down a couple of shots, grabbed a couple of boards and even dished out some assists in a 90-81 victory over the Houston Rockets. The crowd at the American Airlines Center in Dallas cheered wildly every time Odom made a positive play – proving that it’s not so hard after all to avoid being booed by the home fans.
By the way Mavs’ fans cheered him on; you would have thought Odom finished with 20 points, 10 boards and at least five assists for the contest. In reality, Odom finished 4-5 from the field with nine points, four rebounds, and three assists to go along with a blocked shot and a steal.
When you compare that to his dismal averages over the course of the month of March (29 percent shooting, 4.7 points, etc), that stat-line is like an All-Star performance for Odom.
That’s the type of low bar Odom has set for himself in Dallas and proves how willing Mavericks’ fans are to find something to cheer about for Odom.
When asked by HOOPSWORLD after the game whether or not he feels like he is regaining his teammates trust on the court, one thing is clear: Odom projects no shortage in confidence moving forward.
“Yeah,” Odom said after taking a moment to deliver his response. “I’ve won championships; they’ve won [a championship]. My resume kind of speaks for itself. I’m a pretty good guy – people love me, people like me.”
The biggest question going forward for the Mavericks is whether or not this team can rely on Odom to consistently give them the type of effort he displayed Tuesday night against the Rockets.
According to a philosophical Odom after last night’s game, he “might as well be optimistic,” about the future.
“I’ve always felt optimistic about the future – the future’s good bro,” Odom said. “I’m here – it beats the alternative, right? As long as I’m here, and there is a future, I might as well be optimistic about it.”
In terms of the rest of the team, when asked before last night’s game if the Mavericks are capable of trusting Odom over this final month of the season and into the postseason; Coach Carlisle was less than candid about his expectations.
“Well, [Odom is] a member of our team,” Carlisle said. “He understands his responsibilities and all we’re asking of him is defend, rebound, play [his] game so I think he can help us.”
After the game, following Odom’s nine-point eruption, Carlisle had no problem heaping praise and expressing his belief in Odom going forward.
“I like the way he played tonight and this is a great step in the right direction,” Carlisle said. “This is how he plays. I’ve said all along we believe in the guy. Fifteen games doesn’t sound like a long time, but in this particular case, it’s almost a quarter of a season. It’s half of a college season. It’s a long time and there’s a long way to go, but it’s obvious that we need him and everybody else.”
Veterans on this Mavericks’ roster followed their head coach’s lead and continued to stay positive about trusting Odom to deliver down the stretch.
The team’s leader on the floor, Jason Kidd, says Dallas will continue to trust Odom no matter what.
“Lamar was great tonight [but] no matter what he does, we always trust our teammate,” Kidd said. “The good or bad: we always believe our teammates are going to do the right thing and Lamar was great tonight. Hopefully he can build on this.”
Dirk Nowitzki, who hasn’t been shy about discussing Odom’s play in the past, knows what Odom is capable of bringing to the table.
“I always liked his skill-set from day one,” Nowitzki told HOOPSWORLD. “He’s been going through some stuff off the floor but we like what he brings. I think he can play multiple positions for us on both ends of the floor and we like his versatility.”
Whether you’re a fan of Odom or a person who doesn’t hesitate to boo him rigorously, this much is clear: his contribution is vital moving forward for a Mavericks team looking to repeat as champions. The skill-set Odom has the ability to bring could be the difference in Dallas being a championship contender rather than just an also-ran in the Western Conference.
The key is Odom’s realization of this fact along with him putting that to work by starting to string together a cluster of quality games rather than just one every few weeks. As Carlisle iterated, this Mavericks team has 15 games left in the regular season to get things figured out before the playoffs.
“I’ll just keep working hard and try to find a way to impact the game,” Odom said.
Odom figuring out whether or not he has the desire to be that impact contributor moving forward is going to be critical in this team’s development as a whole with just a month left before the start of the postseason.
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