NBA @ 2: Odom Tired Of Fighting Nowitzki
There were just over nine minutes left in Game 4 of the 2011 Western Conference Semifinals. Dallas was leading their hated rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers, 94-68, in what would turn out to be an elimination game for LA. Dirk Nowitzki moved to set a screen for teammate Jason Kidd, only to get hit by a two-arm jab from Lakers forward Lamar Odom. The move would be called a flagrant two, and result in Odom’s ejection from the game.
The next time Odom and Nowitzki saw each other the two were both wearing Dallas Mavericks jerseys, a situation that could have been tense if not for the laid back nature of the two parties involved.
“I told him the other day, I said ‘forgive me.’ We were just joking around really,” said Odom, who was traded to Dallas for a trade exception following a failed trade that would have sent Odom to New Orleans for Chris Paul. “We’re teammates now so he has no choice (laughing). This is a great group of guys. I think he has forgiven me and hopefully I can make up for it now.”
That’s exactly what the Mavericks are counting on, as Odom has a very valuable bit of insight to lend this season. Aside from his versatility, which will be key, Odom has already been a part of accomplishing the daunting goal the Mavericks have before them. Namely, repeating as NBA champions.
“One thing I can tell them, you know, they already experienced winning a championship, but it’s going to be much harder to get back there and defend it. Every team is going to gun for us, look to beat us up. Hopefully we can do a good job and get off to a great start and we’ll be alright.”
When the Chris Paul trade was nixed by Hornets ownership, Odom asked the Lakers to trade him again, and even gave them a very short list of teams for which he would like to play. The Mavericks were on that list, largely because of their two superstars.
“I’ve been getting my butt kicked by (Dirk) for a minute now, raining those jumpers on my head. But you know, all these guys . . .I can’t believe I’m playing with Jason Kidd, who I idolized so much growing up. I remember one of my friends back home taping his All-American game and us watching the All-American game that he played in.”
Odom didn’t get to share the court with Nowitzki or Kidd in the Mavs’ preseason opener last night, as neither veteran played in the game, but he did receive a nice ovation from the home crowd when he was announced with the rest of the starters.
“I love it,” said Odom. “The people here have been very welcoming. I’m playing for a great coach, a great organization with great players . . .I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
“Lamar Odom is going to be a fan favorite here just because of the kind of player he is,” added Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle after the game. “You can tell by his body language that he is just a really likable guy. He’s a competitor. He’s been a part of a lot of winning, and our fans recognize that; hey know the problems he’s given us over the years. That said, he’s working through some things adjustment-wise, conditioning-wise as are a lot of our guys. We’ve got to keep pressing through those things.”
As for Odom, he foresees an easy transition from LA to Dallas, especially with so many scoring threats around him.
“I’m just going to play ball. I don’t have to worry about how many shots to take or how many shots to make. I don’t have to score the ball to be effective. I can be effective in so many ways . . .and I can just go out there and have fun.”
As for the Lakers, Odom is just ready to move on. He’s been traded before, and so understands as well as anyone that basketball is a business and you can’t look back on what was.
“That happened. It’s over and done. I’m a Maverick now,” said Odom, definitively. “You can’t really take anything personally. You get over it. I’ve been traded a couple of times, but of course LA was my longest team. I learned a lot.”
Now he’s going to learn what it means to be a Dallas Maverick . . .and, the Mavs hope, what it means to bring another championship to Dallas.
D.J. Augustin’s Year?
From the day the Charlotte Bobcats drafted D.J. Augustin they believed he would be their leader of the future. After all, he was the catalyst behind two high school state championships in Louisiana and then played wingman to Kevin Durant at the University of Texas. Part of the Bobcats’ rationale for letting starting point guard Raymond Felton walk away two summers ago was that they believed Augustin was ready to take the next step.
Now they’re ready for him to do just that.
Since being drafted by the Bobcats in 2008, Augustin has been surrounded by veterans, and he has spent much of that time deferring to players he thought to be better than himself. Felton, Gerald Wallace, and Stephen Jackson all seemed to be higher in the pecking order, but now that pecking order has changed. Felton and Wallace are in Portland, Jackson is in Milwaukee, and Augustin is now the longest-tenured member of the squad aside from Matt Carroll. Head coach Paul Silas has emphasized repeatedly that the Bobcats are now Augustin’s team.
Why, then, did the Bobcats draft Connecticut point guard Kemba Walker with the ninth overall pick in last summer’s NBA draft?
Simple. They want him to push Augustin to be the best he can be.
So far it seems to be working, according to our friend Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. Walker promised to push Augustin, and he’s been doing just that in practice. Soon he’ll be doing it in game situations, which should only help Augustin realize his potential as the franchise’s leader.
Last year’s coaching change, in which Silas replaced Larry Brown, was an important first step in the development of Augustin. No longer under Brown’s thumb, D.J. averaged 18.1 points and 7.3 assists in January, his first full month under Silas, which is what Charlotte would like to see out of Augustin on a consistent basis.
How likely is that? Let’s just say the Bobcats aren’t betting the entire future of the franchise on it. Plan A is for Walker to push Augustin to bring it every night, but if he doesn’t, Plan B would seem to be for Walker to push Augustin right out of the starting lineup. As long as DJ takes that threat seriously and acts accordingly, the Bobcats should their next leader already in place with Augustin.
The Associated Press is reporting that Bismack Biyombo has reached a $1.5 million buyout agreement with his Spanish team, meaning he will be able to join the Charlotte Bobcats after all. That’s welcome news for the Bobcats, who were absolutely counting on Biyombo holding down the center position this season after they acquired him from the Sacramento Kings, who made him the seventh overall pick in last summer’s NBA draft.
Grizzlies Looking For Front Court Help
The Memphis Grizzlies were already looking for front court help before the news came that Darrell Arthur might be out for the season following an Achilles injury. Now that search will have to kick into high gear.
The Grizzlies were close to a deal that would have landed Josh McRoberts in town last week, and when that fell apart they pursued Troy Murphy. Murphy has now signed a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, so the Grizzlies are still shopping around.
Ron Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal says free agent center Samuel Dalembert, New Jersey Nets free agent Kris Humphries and former Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko could all be in the Grizzlies radar.
Memphis is also in need of a backup center, as Hamad Haddadi has yet to resolve his via issues.
The Grizzlies have all of their $5 million exception to use, though it would put them over the tax threshold to use it, and they could also decide to trade guard OJ Mayo, who has had a number of suitors over the last year.
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