NBA@2: Lamar Odom Earning Those Boos?
Lamar Odom could have received a rude welcome in his first game as a Dallas Maverick this season. After all, his last game as a Los Angeles Laker was also in Dallas, and in that game he was whistled for a Flagrant Two for a hit he put on Dirk Nowitzki as the Mavs swept the Lakers out of the second round of the 2011 playoffs. Odom could have been roundly booed the first time he stepped on the court in Dallas by fans who remembered that ugly play and the fact that Odom had long been a member of their hated Western Conference rivals.
But that’s not what happened.
Instead Odom and Nowitzki had a nice conversation, put any lingering bad feelings (there weren’t many) behind them, and prepared to move forward as teammates. Odom was greeted by the American Airlines Center crowd as if he were the prodigal son who finally found his way home. He was a smash hit, and expectations were through the roof.
For his part, Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle loves versatility more than almost anything else, and he spoke glowingly of how Odom would be able to play four positions for Dallas, saying he would even trust him to run the offense at times due to his ballhandling skill.
Make no mistake about it – Dallas Mavericks fans, players and coaches alike were all ecstatic to have Lamar Odom join the team.
Unfortunately, it quickly became difficult to be excited about Odom. The Mavericks lost four of their first five games of the season, two of them in blowout fashion, and the celebrated ex-Laker shot just 16% from the field over that span. Instead of a passionate, versatile warriors the Mavericks saw a passive, tentative player who was more likely to pass up an open look than light up the scoreboard. Stories began to surface about how depressed Odom was about being away from the Lakers, how he was emotionally distraught over the move.
Keep in mind, Odom asked for a trade and Dallas was at the top of his wish list. The Lakers gave him the trade he asked for and sent him where he said he wanted to go, even though the move hurt the Lakers considerably. And yet Odom has spent much of his time sulking, both on and off the court. He skipped a game against his beloved Lakers, nearly spent time in the NBADL after being granted a leave of absence, inspired Carlisle to go on a rare rant about how his patience was wearing then with the former sixth-man of the year, and even had the nerve to ask Mavericks owner Mark Cuban for a buyout.
It’s important to keep all of that in mind as you hear Kobe Bryant and some reality TV pseudo-star talk about how poor Lamar doesn’t deserve to be booed by the booed by the Mavericks’ home crowd.
Simply put, Lamar has earned every last reverberation of every syllable of every boo issued forth from the Mavericks’ faithful.
“It’s tough (for Lamar),” said Bryant on Wednesday night in Dallas. “He comes to a team that’s pretty much, set so it’s hard for him to find his niche, and the fans they don’t really understand what he does or how he can do it. I hope they don’t unlock that mystery. I know. I know how to use him and to use his skill set and this, that and the other; but this team, with the roster that they have being pretty much set, it’s tough for him to find his groove.”
Sounds logical enough. The Mavericks came into the season as defending champs, so they already had everything set. Poor Lamar just can’t find his niche in a set system. Trouble is, it’s not true at all. The Mavericks made huge changes to their roster over the offseason, letting key free agents walk away in favor of older players with one-year deals, and had every intention of making Odom a primary option in their offense.
“I’m pleasantly surprised [Odom hasn’t found his groove],” Bryant continued. “It’s tough because, like I said, they have their bench, they have what they run, they have what they execute, they have their group of core guys and Lamar is not a player that you just plug in. You feature him – we featured him in terms of his ball-handling and post-up ability and stuff like that.”
Again, that all sounds good unless you’ve been courtside watching how much the Mavericks have tried to feature Odom only to watch him pass up open shots, jog back on defense and generally act like a guy who wants to be anywhere else but on the basketball court. It’s been so bad lately that Rick Carlisle actually turned to Odom’s wife in the stands during a recent home game and asked: “How do I make him shoot?” Odom had just passed up his third or fourth wide open shot.
The Mavericks want to feature Lamar Odom. They want him to handle the ball, post up and stuff. They would like nothing better.
It’s Odom who doesn’t seem to be up for doing any of those things . . .and that’s why the boo birds have been letting him have it. Mavericks fans aren’t accustomed to seeing someone who merely goes through the motions get minutes under Rick Carlisle, and you have to wonder how much longer he will be afforded that rare luxury.
Pau Gasol: Relieved Laker
Los Angeles Lakers All-Star forward Pau Gasol talks with HOOPSWORLD about not being traded from the Lakers, the play and injury of Ricky Rubio and the addition of Ramon Sessions in this exclusive interview:
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Jordan Hill “Shocked” By Trade
For the second time in his young NBA career, Jordan Hill finds himself on a new team, having been traded from the Houston Rockets to the Los Angeles Lakers on deadline day last week. Despite hearing about the protracted trade talks between the Rockets and Lakers, he was shocked to learn that had been dealt, as most of the talk surrounded Luis Scola and other players going to LA for Pau Gasol.
“I was definitely shocked by it,” Hill tells HOOPSWORLD. “It’s all a business and it was trading time, so I should have been prepared for it and here I am.”
One thing that didn’t surprise Hill was Houston’s stance that they wouldn’t give up Kyle Lowry, which ultimately meant the Rockets didn’t land the All-Star big man they were after. Like the Rockets, Hill sees a great deal of potential in Lowry.
“Kyle’s definitely a great player, great point guard, goes out there and gives it his all every time he’s on the floor. He’s definitely a hard worker and I see him definitely being an All-Star in a couple of years. Definitely hard this year, but he’s still got a lot more years to go and he’s still going to progress and be a better player every year.”
Now Hill has to learn on the fly, trying to make his way in an extremely competitive organization with little or no practice time. For now, Lakers head coach has given Hill a fairly simple assignment.
“He wants me to be an energy guy,” says Hill. “He wants me to go out there and do the tough job, rebounding, anything possible, block shots, defend and not look to be a scorer. He just wants me to go out there and be a post presence, paint presence and try to do anything to stop the ball from going in the rim.”
One thing that might help Hill take the next step in his own development is competing against two established front court stars in Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, something the Rockets haven’t had for a while.
“I definitely can, they’re good players, great players,” agrees Hill. “Being around them I can learn more and see what I need to work on and go from there; do all the things that I need to do be that caliber of player level myself. I just have to go out there and work. Just continue to work and do what I have to do to get better.”
One thing Hill found out immediately is that the stakes are higher in LA. Making the playoffs is not even the minimum expectation – it’s title or bust. Kobe Bryant made that perfectly clear.
“He’s just another great player,” Hill says of Bryant. “He’s just going out there and having fun, playing his game, doing what he does best and that’s to help his team win and of course it’s an honor to play with him. But it’s our business right now, we’re all trying to get something and we’re all trying to do something with this team we have right now. Just try to go out there and bring another title to Los Angeles.”
Hill may not be a big part of that plan, but he is someone who might have a role to play in some critical situation come playoff time.
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