Odom Vs. 'Self-Policing' Mavs Locker Room
In many aspects, sport lives as a mirror to life outside the lines, beyond the confines of the court/field/arena/stadium. There is the adherence to the greater themes of life, the most basic of emotions: success, failure, love, hate, happiness and sadness. Stitched into the skin of these all-encompassing tenets of breathing is a tacit understanding, recognition of a simple action that must be deemed intolerable.
It bleeds into our work, our friendships, our relationships, our family ... and permeates every cell of sport: don't let those depending on you down.
It hurts to miss a shot that could have delivered a win. The pain is equally severe to those who fail to stop those game-winners from an opponent that go in. There's regret, frustration, possibly a sense of sports-shame in the haunting whisper of "what if" when a goal is left unaccomplished ... just as the heart of the purest teammate is left cracked for those he/she let down, an agreement left unfulfilled, a trust broken.
Is this the cardinal sin Lamar Odom is committing as we speak?
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle had promised a Thursday update on Odom's nine-day absenteeism and here it is: The PR department says it's going to be at least an 11-day absenteeism as its announced that the Mavericks backup power forward will not rejoin the team in New Orleans for Friday night's game. The team said no further update would be forthcoming until Saturday before the game against Utah. ... ah, but late Thursday afternoon Steiny-Mo reports that LO will hang with the Legends of the D-League on Friday (for practice) and on Saturday (for a game, while the Mavs play down the road) ... all to "get his legs back.''
Does this mean the turmoil is behind him? And us?
We don't want to condemn a man struggling through the personal fires that have engulfed Odom, whether born in the deep past, conceived on the back of the Lakers attempt to deal him to New Orleans and ultimately the Dallas Mavericks, or brought to life more recently by the "daily affirmation'' problems first brought to you by DB.com. A man in Odom's position has the freedom to set his own course, and there is no denying the fact that life is bigger than the game of basketball.
While attempting to not be overly judgmental about any emotional duress Odom has undergone, one must also question whether or not he's held up his end up the bargain to his teammates, maintained his responsibility to his current basketball family.
And for the first time in this saga, which has lasted all season but is at its peak at this moment ... we don't have to "judge.'' DB.com has learned that Lamar Odom's teammates have done the judging themselves.
Two sources with knowledge of the innerworkings of the locker room tell us that Mavs "leaders'' (you can presume who they might be) helped fuel Odom's lengthy absence by telling him to go on home until he's ready to commit to being a Mav.
A harsh version of this: The Mavs leaders have kicked him off their team until he's ready to do the right thing.
A softer version: They care enough about him to let him go commit to himself rather than being half-committed here.
The self-policing, we are told, doesn't necessarily mean anybody thinks the Odom family is lying about the seriousness of Lamar's father's illness or some other family malady. (Nor does it necessarily preclude the idea that Lamar is a malcontent and a cancer.) What it does mean is that the locker room recognizes that each player needs to be responsible in many ways ... to family as well as to team. And that Lamar hasn't been prepared to follow that code.
As the Mavs entered one of their most grinding stretches (nine games in 12 nights, including a back-to-back-to-back) already without Delonte West (recovering from a badly broken and dislocated finger), Lamar Odom guaranteed an additional strain to the team's depth at a time when that depth would be most beneficial, most heavily relied upon … a fact only compounded when Dirk Nowitzki left Wednesday's matchup in Memphis due to lower-back stiffness.
Tuesday night, as the Mavs returned from the All-Star break to open this stretch, Odom's wife was a guest on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." The next day she was a guest on "Conan." Meanwhile, LO was not with Dallas, casting further doubt amongst Dallas fans over Odom's commitment to his team.
As conspicuous as Lamar's absence may have been, the presence of another stood in stark contrast, further damning the man who wasn't present. Roddy Beaubois suffered the loss of his father, but when the break came to a close, he was back in uniform and ready to go.
Mark Cuban has stated the Mavs will support Odom in any way they can, and value what he could bring to this team far more than the possible $2.4 million that could be shaved off of next season's salary cap number by buying out his contract now. Likewise, Rick Carlisle has stayed the course of continual support, just as teammates have not publicly expressed anger in Odom's direction.
After Wednesday's game against the Grizzlies, the subtleties of player comments may have taken a slight turn. Stating a situation would get worked out "one way or another" as Jason Kidd did (from Caplan's story) carries ominous implications. Maybe this is no more than someone transposing their frustrations into the words of someone inside, but as time continues to slip by with no Odom on the court or in the locker room, the tone of the situation slides further south.
Time has not sealed itself, not severed the present from what is to come. Should LO return, it is entirely possible he works to put the lack his arrival has delivered thus far in the rearview, though his time on the court thus far has given little hope of this.
Carlisle previously noted that Odom's stats per 36-minutes weren't that far off from his career numbers. In some respects this is true, in others … not so much. If you take into account efficiency, the player who has dressed for the Mavs is but a shell of his former. His field-goal percentage (35.7) is easily a career low and 11 percentage points below his career average. He's converting his 3-point tries at a rate (25.9%) he's only finished below once in his 13-year career, back in 2001-02. His true-shooting percentage (43.2) is just over ten percentage points below his career makr. His PER (9.8) is a career low and almost ten below points lower than last season.
Beyond statistical measurement is the impact on the court. As we're fond of stating, numbers often fail to tell the whole story of a player's sway. On the Mavs roster, think Jason Kidd, whose influence extends far beyond the boxscore.
For a more singular example, look to Roddy Beabuois' in Game 6 of the Spurs series two years ago. Scoring 16 points in 21 minutes is impressive, but not overwhelming. Yet, for anyone who watched the game, there was little doubt that Roddy completely changed its direction. Or, if you need something more current, look to Game 1 against the Lakers last season and Corey Brewer.
Brewer played only 8:21, scoring five points, one rebound and one steal … and completely altered the outcome. His impact was not a gift of the boxscore. It was something far more, an infusion of energy, of hope of … of something. There is no individual statistic that encapsulates what took place on the court.
Those are examples of impact swelling beyond personal numbers. Those are examples of something that has often felt to be missing with Odom. He has allowed the burden of minutes to be lessened on Dirk, a tangible positive. Unfortunately for Odom, we have a career of information, of observation, to feel what only some of the statistics show: he isn't performing up to accustomed levels.
Maybe the Frisco assignment changes all this. But previous to that news, the feeling was growing that Odom's time as a Maverick may be drawing to a conclusion. Perhaps there will be a revelation pertaining to his personal life that invites genuine empathy and a excusing of blame, but in the moment, it's hard not to ask the question: Is he committing the ultimate sports iniquity? Is he letting his team and his teammates down?
And just now, with DB.com's discovery, it doesn't matter that we think the answer is "yes.'' All that matters is that Odom's teammates think the answer is "yes.''