Rick Carlisle Responds to Kobe’s Criticism
Dallas Mavericks’ forward Lamar Odom is in the midst of a dismal statistical season, during which he’s been booed by the home fans at the American Airlines Center on numerous occasions.
Fans and media alike have questioned Odom’s desire to play the game of basketball throughout the season after a myriad of personal tragedies in the offseason appear to have taken their toll over the course of 2011-12.
Both professionally and personally, it’s been a tough year overall for the Mavericks’ reserve forward and a former teammate wasn’t shy about coming to Odom’s defense after visiting Dallas last week.
After last Wednesday’s 109-93 win over the Mavericks, Odom’s former teammate with the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant, had some interesting things to say about why Odom was struggling with the Mavs.
“It’s tough,” Bryant said. “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 [the Mavericks] don’t unlock that mystery…
“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.”
During the course of that conversation, Bryant went on to explain that he knew how to best utilize Odom on an NBA team.
“I know,” Bryant said. “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.”
While Bryant did win two titles with Odom as the team’s sixth man, and Odom won Sixth Man of the Year last season, the idea that Kobe knows better than an NBA head coach coming off an NBA Title is far-fetched.
To that point, I decided to ask Mavericks’ head coach Rick Carlisle what he thought about Bryant’s assessment.
“Well, he’s certainly earned the right to have an opinion,” Carlisle said. “I certainly understand him defending his former teammate who he’s been in the trenches with.”
Even though Carlisle said he understands where Bryant was coming from, the Mavs’ head coach says he doesn’t pay those comments any mind.
“No,” Carlisle said of Bryant’s stance, “not at all.”
Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in NBA history – no doubt about that. A career scoring average of 25.4 points per game (which is also his career playoff points per game average) to go along with five championship rings speaks for itself.
That being said, Bryant has never coached an NBA team and I highly doubt he knows the approximate game plan to make sure Odom is involved and prospering in an NBA rotation.
With all due respect to Bryant, if there’s any coach in the NBA that should be able to coax Odom to play quality basketball: it’s Carlisle. The Mavs’ head coach’s best asset is his ability to put his players in prime position to fully utilize their strengths while disguising their weaknesses – and Carlisle has an NBA Championship on his mantle from last season to prove it.
What’s interesting about Bryant’s thoughts is how quickly he can switch from coach’s point of view back to simply another player on the court depending on the question.
After his statements on how Dallas should utilize Odom, I asked Bryant whether or not he believed Ramon Sessions would be better suited providing a spark off the bench for LA or being in the starting lineup.
“I’m not the coach,” Bryant replied. “I don’t know.”
In the future, it might be more professional for Bryant to stick to that same answer when it comes to other teams head coaching decisions as well.
There’s no doubt that Bryant and Odom have a personal relationship that goes far deeper than what transpires on the court. That makes it easy to understand why Bryant would make it a point to come to Odom’s defense – despite how awful Odom has played this season.
Basically attacking a reigning championship organization in that defense of said buddy, on the other hand, is a bit more difficult to swallow. This is true especially considering that Bryant refuses, and cleverly so, to have much of an opinion with the media on his own organization’s coaching decisions.
Don’t forget to check out Derek’s weekly chat this Saturday at 5 PM EST. Get your questions in early by clicking here to guarantee your voice gets heard.