NBA@2: No Lamar Odom Questions Tonight
“No Lamar questions tonight.”
That was Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle’s response when he was asked about Lamar Odom’s ongoing disappearing act, the latest segment of which contributed to the Mavericks’ 89-94 defeat at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night.
And really, what else needed to be said?
When the Mavericks approached this season, they knew that everything had to go right for them to repeat as champions. They made several significant gambles, and if they didn’t roll sevens on every single one they would fall short of the prize. When they opted not to pay Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea and DeShawn Stevenson, they were absolutely banking on Vince Carter, Delonte West, Brendan Haywood and Lamar Odom being able to pick up the slack. If any one of those players failed to step up, the chances of Dallas defending their championship would be nil.
For their part, Haywood, Carter and West have lived up to their part of the deal. Carter is giving the Mavs more offense that anyone probably believed possible, West has been a great addition on both ends of the floor and Haywood has held his own with the help of a solid supporting duo in Ian Mahinmi and Brandon Wright. But again, the Mavs needed all of their gambles to pay off, and the biggest gamble of all keeps coming up snake eyes.
Odom asked to be traded, and when he asked to be traded he named Dallas as one of his preferred destinations. The Los Angeles Lakers granted his request, and even got him where he wanted to be. The Mavericks thought his versatility, ability to play basically all five positions and length on the defensive end would be a huge factor for them this season. Instead, as has been well-documented, Odom has been a complete no-show, even when he has physically been in the lineup.
Two recent moments, in particular, define how this season has gone for the Mavericks and Odom.
The first came the last time Odom’s wife attended a Mavs game. The fifth or sixth time Odom turned down a wide open shot, Carlisle turned to Mrs. Odom and mouthed the words: “How do I get him to shoot?!?”
The second came more recently. I don’t watch the reality show that has cameras following Odom all over American Airlines Center, but according to my wife, in a recent episode Mrs. Odom was pressuring her husband to go house hunting. His response was, “We’re not going to be here much longer, so why should we go house hunting?”
The better question might be whether Odom ever actually arrived in Dallas at all. Of course, the news this morning is that that the Mavericks have decided to put Odom in mothballs for the rest of the season. They won’t waive him or buy him out, rather they will list him as inactive and hope to use him as a trade piece around this summer’s draft.
Now an even more pressing question is haunting the Mavericks as they prepare for the last nine games of their regular season schedule: Are they even a playoff team?
Going into tomorrow night’s game against the Sacramento Kings, the Mavs stand at 31-26 on the season, which ties them in the loss column with the eighth-seeded Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets aren’t exactly storming the postseason door, but right behind them are the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz. If the Mavs slip up much at all they could very easily find themselves on the outside looking in come playoff time, something that hasn’t happened since the turn of the century.
The schedule would seem to favor the Mavs getting in, as they have five games remaining against teams that are not currently in the playoff picture, but the Mavs have lost six of their last ten games and look very beatable. If they cough one up against the Sacramento Kings, drop another game to Portland, or let the Jazz beat them head-to-head, things could get shaky. It’s already difficult to see them taking out the Los Angeles Lakers, the red-hot Houston Rockets, the Chicago Bulls or Atlanta Hawks.
Many around the Mavericks would tell you that the team wasn’t serious about repeating as NBA champions, anyway. They had their sights set on Deron Williams (see HOOPSWORLD’s Jason Fleming’s thoughts on this scenario) and Dwight Howard in free agency almost as soon as they polished off the Miami HEAT in last year’s NBA Finals. Whether or not that is really the case, it’s clear that the Mavs’ approach to repeating as NBA champs was not sufficient to actually accomplish the feat, and while the questions about Lamar Odom are bothersome now, the questions facing the Mavericks this offseason and beyond could be ever so much more so.
In Related: The Mavericks have recalled Kelenna Azubuike from the D-League’s Texas Legends. He will no doubt be given an opportunity to find a role now that the Mavs need someone to fill Odom’s spot.
LaMarcus Aldridge On Portland’s New Direction
Portland Trail Blazers All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge talks with HOOPSWORLD about the Blazers total makeover at the trade deadline, new head coach Kaleb Canales, the improved play of Raymond Felton, the departure of Gerald Wallace and more in this exclusive interview.
The Houston Rockets continue to be the Little Team That Could in the NBA. Despite lacking a true superstar and with their starting back court out of action, the Rockets have kicked in the door to the Western Conference playoff picture and keep coming out with all guns blazing.
Two of Houston’s hottest guns are the very players who were asked to step in when injuries struck. While Kevin Martin (shoulder) and Kyle Lowry (infection) were out of the lineup, Goran Dragic and Courtney Lee seized their opportunities to start and the Rockets are in the playoff picture as a direct result.
In 18 starts this season, Dragic is averaging 17.9 points and 8.8 assists per contest while shooting 52% from the field, 43% from three and 83% from the free throw line. To put that in perspective, Chris Paul is averaging 19.3 points and shooting 48% from the field. Dragic is holding his own with the very best players in the NBA. That’s also considerably better then Lowry was averaging before he got sick: 15.5 points, 7.2 assists, 42% from the field, 38% from three.
So what should Rockets coach Kevin McHale do now that Lowry is back in the lineup? Should he go back to Lowry, whom many in the organization feel has All-Star potential, or stick to what’s been working?
There’s not much question that Lowry is the better player when both are healthy, but there is also an old adage that says, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The Rockets are playing their best basketball of the season with Dragic starting at the point, and shouldn’t mess with success.
If the Rockets start to struggle, maybe drop a couple of games in a row, that would be the ideal time to move Lowry back into the starting lineup. Until then, however, it would seem to make the most sense to let Dragic keep doing what he’s doing and let Lowry become a lethal weapon of the Rockets’ bench for the time being.
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NBA Chats: There are three NBA Chats scheduled for today starting with HOOPSWORLD’s Bill Ingram at 11am. HOOPSWORLD’s Stephen Brotherston returns to hold down his weekly chat at 3pm EST. While HOOPSWORLD editor Jason Fleming rounds out the day with his weekly NBA chat at 8pm EST. You can always find the next NBA Chat here: http://www.hoopsworld.com/upcoming-chats and if you are looking for Previous Chats try here: http://www.hoopsworld.com/previous-chats