Mavs Psychology: The State Of The UberMan
First, there is nothing seriously wrong with the Dallas Mavericks' Lamar Odom from a physical standpoint. Yes, his "dogs are barking,'' as he told me recently. And now he's saying his ankles are bothering him. But really, his issues are above the neck.
"I expect more out of myself than you could ever expect out of me,'' L.O. is saying, and while that's a great line, we are beyond the one-quarter mark of the season and we've seen no true evidence of that.
Indeed, it's worth reviewing one more time coach Rick Carlisle's response when asked after Wednesday's loss to Minnesota whether L.O. is "engaged'':
"My assumption is that he is,'' Rick said, "that he does care. Again, we don't make excuses around here."
That is not a "yes.''
Carlisle said on Thursday that "We believe in Lamar. This has been a struggle so far, but this guy can play. … We're going to keep supporting him and keep believing in him. He's going to get better and better. … We're with him.''
So one day it's a whip and the next day it's a hug. That's the way Jimmy Johnson used to do it. It's worth a try.
One more thing on L.O.: A couple of Mavs mentioned today what Odom has said often: that Odom takes on extra responsibility by learning multiple positions. That's being used as a "reason'' for his struggles, so here's a thought: How about lessening his "extra responsibility''?
Meanwhile, Vince did practice while celebrating turning 35. His sprained foot has sidelined him for four games, and while Dallas certainly doesn't want to push him into a premature return, a Mavs stable of forwards with Dirk in a three-piece suit and Lamar off in La-La Land sure would be aided by the offensive of VC. Vince talked of working on the mental side of having confidence in the health of the foot, so again … psychology.
Now to Dirk Nowitzki, who a week ago was instructed to take at least four games to work on "the ankle, conditioning and unspecified physical issues,'' as Carlisle put it.
"This week is a mental week, too,'' Dirk said, "where you push yourself to make those moves, even though it might be a little sore or stiff."
Hey, is Dr. Phil still a Mavs season-ticket holder? Can somebody please bring him downstairs?
Dallas is 2-1 during this period without Dirk but plays host to toughies Utah on Friday and San Antonio on Sunday. I'm encouraged to hear Dirk say that when it comes to West contenders, ""I think we can compete with all of them. … All we have to do is keep working, keep everybody healthy and be there when it counts in the playoffs."
I believe him. I agree with him.
Once a bunch of heads get screwed on tighter, that is.
Nowitzki said he is still targeting his return for Sunday and the Spurs.
"Well, we were always shooting for Sunday, so we'll just take it day-by-day and see how these next two days of training go and keep pushing myself, twice a day," Nowitzki said. "But that's where my head is, hopefully Sunday, and we'll go from there."
Translation: I believe it will be very difficult for The UberMan to sit and watch this much longer. To sit and watch Odom fail at replacing him. To sit and watch the Spurs come in here and take a Southwest Division game from their rivals.
There is progress, right?
"Significant progress," Carlisle said.
What's getting done down in the basement with trainer Casey Smith?
"We lifted a lot, ran some, shot some,'' said Nowitzki, who answered in the affirmative when asked if he could continue playing at a star-caliber level for the next few years. "I think it was definitely a good week for me to work on some stuff that I wasn't able to work on when I had some trouble with my knee. So that's definitely good.''
Are there reasons to extend the "Dirk-Out Workout''? My belief is that there is a reason not to extend the program, but to expand it. The Mavs can't really afford to put a handful of guys into the no-game training regimen. But couldn't Odom use it? What about the struggling Kidd? Maybe Dallas should rotate the next underachiever down into the basement and do so when Dirk is ready to rotate upstairs.
"I'm excited to get this week over with,'' Dirk said, "and be back out there with the guys."
That rotation back upstairs is coming.
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