Mavs did all they could to end Odom drama
DALLAS — It was 5:59 p.m. last Friday. The top-of-the-roster guy, Dirk Nowitzki, was working on his shooting in the AAC basement. A bottom-of-the-roster guy, Dominique Jones, was doing wind sprints on the AAC floor.
Assistant coach Monte Mathis is scribbling game plan notes on the visiting Portland TrailBlazers on the locker room grease board.
Friday's game against Portland was 91 minutes away from tipoff, and at 5:59 – the middle of the workday for the rest of the Mavs – Lamar Odom strolled into the building.
On Monday, he was sent strolling out.
"It's been a frustrating situation,'' Mavs GM Donnie Nelson said Monday, confirming that Odom and the organization have parted ways. "Lamar hasn't performed the way he wants to perform and is capable of performing, he's dealt with a lot of personal issues, and at this point we need to be able to count on some folks."
Odom's announcement mentions that the move is "mutual'' but that's untrue in the sense that the word suggests an absence of discord.
Lamar Odom is leaving but he will not be released. This is the case of an arguably cancerous player being quarantined but not completely amputated. Odom was never with the Mavs in spirit and now will not be with them in body but that doesn't mean the stench won't linger.
He is on the Mavs' books for this year, and here's a little-known fact: The Mavs' commitment to him (and to defending their title this year) is such that they waded into taxpayer status to have him, thus using up one of their three-years-in-five that they can pay tax without the repeater penalty coming into play.
Forget for a moment Odom's unfortunate stats: 6.6 points and 4.1 rebounds in 20.5 minutes per game while shooting 35.2 percent from the field and 25.2 percent on 3-pointers, all-career lows.
Forget for a moment Odom's morose Joe Btfsplk-like presence, which he barely tried to hide with a nightly pile of quotes that amounted to existential horse spit.
Consider the taxpayer decision and know that as much as anything, that's why he's a bust — one of the all-time busts in Dallas Mavericks history.
Yes, there can be a recovery from the cap carnage this summer, when the Mavs buy him out of his $8.2 million contract at a price of $2.4 mil, thus purchasing cap room that can be used in the pursuit of Deron Williams or whomever.
But that doesn't help the defending champs now — and boy, as they are mired in the basement of the West playoff race, do they need help. (They are 31-26 and seventh in the West, with only nine games left to fix what's broken.)
It can be argued that Odom was the 6-10 psychological albatross that's been holding this team back, and this much is true: Stuff like showing up at 5:59 for a game drags the fellas down. Makes them roll their eyes. Makes them not trust or feel trusted.
And in the end, that's how this went down. It wasn't about crummy statistics. It wasn't about how the front office wished to use Odom as a chess piece. What I've written repeatedly is that Odom's end in Dallas really wouldn't ever be a Mark Cuban/Donnie Nelson-level decision. No, if Odom's end was to come, the decision would come from inside the locker room. It would be somebody like Jason Kidd or Dirk Nowitzki talking as one voice with coach Rick Carlisle.
And then came Saturday night in Memphis, a little more than 24 hours after Lamar's 5:59 punch-in time for the previous game.
"No Lamar questions tonight,'' Carlisle said after the loss in Memphis.
"I'm done talking about that,'' Dirk said when asked a Lamar question a few minutes later.
Mavs players took essentially the same stance after Monday's practice. Kidd, nursing a thigh injury but planning to return to the lineup Tuesday against the Kings, declined to meet the media. Dirk likely feels he's said enough, too. Both trotted out a side door to avoid media visits.
Odom's been voted off the island. The Kidds and the Nowitzkis did the voting. Their time to talk about Odom — something they've done for three months, whether he was a central story or not — is over.
Jason Terry is quoted on Mavs.com as saying, "We won't know how much we miss him until the season is over, I guess." Brendan Haywood is quoted as saying, "I wish him the best in whatever he does. . . . I just wish him the best in whatever he does next."
And that's about as much ink as the Mavs would like waste on this going forward.
The Mavs should take blame for misjudging Odom's character but not more mishandling him. The organization exhausted all resources in trying to aid him, physically as well as mentally and emotionally. That included everything from offers of counseling to allowing him to take 10 days off to deal with his ailing father to very deliberate efforts to make him feel "loved.'' (Why do you think the club kept sunshine-pumping that "Mavs are 0-7 when Lamar Odom does not play'' meme?)
The Mavs should not, however, take blame for mishandling Odom on the floor. Dallas largely ignored the slap in the face issued it by Kobe Bryant, Lamar's big-brother figure, who said the Mavs simply don't understand how to use Lamar the way Kobe himself would know how to utilize last season's NBA Sixth Man of the Year.
"I hope they don't unlock that mystery,'' Bryant said. "I know. I know how to use him and to use his skill set and this, that and the other. But with this team, the roster that they had being pretty much set, it's tough for him to be able to find his groove here."
The notion that Bryant's BBIQ is stronger and deeper than the combined knowledge of the entire Dallas Mavericks organization is a clownish one. But it's an insult to Odom, too; wouldn't Lamar have been the one to help "unlock the mystery''?
Carlisle's final words on Odom?
"It's time to turn the page,'' the coach said Monday.
Odom's season-long funk is in part due to the July murder of his 24-year-old cousin and to a fatal car accident days later that killed a pedestrian after the car Odom was riding in collided with a motorcycle. He's been very open with DallasBasketball.com and elsewhere about the after-effects of losing his mom, his grandmother and the baby he buried in 2006.
We've all asked the question on many occasions this season: Until what time does one get to mourn a death? Until what time does one get to be away from work to tend to an ill father? Until what time does one get to mope because of a career left turn?
The Mavs struggled with the answers to those questions, too. They finally pinpointed the time.
Friday, at 5:59 p.m.