Ballast-Free Mavs Elevate Over Kings
The rumor that the shattering point in Lamar Odom's relationship with the Dallas Mavericks came as a result of a fistfight with teammate Dirk Nowitzki is as preposterous as it is untrue (and it is untrue, a Mavs source telling DallasBasketball.com that the locker-room confrontation between the two men after Saturday's loss at Memphis was verbal and not physical).
So no, fists were not thrown. Given the peaceful nature of Nowitzki and the passive nature of Odom, it would be more likely that maybe some of those expensive fluffy towels provided by owner Mark Cuban were the only things tossed.
But the Mavs leader and MVP was central to the morose Odom's dismissal from the team, a highly-unusual move executed at least in part in the hopes that a 6-10 ballast would be cut loose from the defending champs' wish to balloon its way up the Western Conference standings.
Did it work? Mavs 110, Kings 100 says it did.
"Addition by subtraction,'' Cuban said hopefully before the game.
The Mavs won with offensive balance, with six guys in double-figures led by 15 each from Rodrigue Beaubouis and Dirk (who shot just 4-of-14) They won with offensive rebounding, a team bugaboo fixed here due to a 56-40 rebounding edge that included 17 offensive boards for Dallas. And they won with an overall buoyancy not always present during Odom's odyssey here.
The Mavericks' move of Odom to the limbo of the "inactive'' list was the result of a culmination of misbehaviors by the ex-Lakers standout acquired in trade this year by Dallas. Dirk spoke to him angrily after that Saturday game in Memphis. Owner Mark Cuban did the same during halftime of what would be a damaging loss to the Grizzlies.
''I just asked him, does he want to go for it or not. Is he in or is he out? ... I just didn't get a commitment. And that was the end,'' Cuban said.
Dallas used the springy Brandan Wright as a backup 4 (Odom's old position) and also got use at the position from another young reclamation project, Yi Jianlian. The pair combined for 17 points. Meanwhile, the Mavs got offensive production from guards Delonte West and Jason Terry 13 points each), from center Brendan Haywood (11 points) and from all-around standout Shawn Marion (10 points and 14 rebounds). Vince Carter contributed a monumental dunk, one of many feel-good moments for the home team.
The Mavericks were also aided by the return from injury of team leader Jason Kidd, who'd missed four games with a strained right groin. Kidd had seven points on 2-of-5 shooting (with seven assists and six rebounds) and played in his 1,310th career game, most among active players and 10th on the all-time list.
"It's a sight for sore eyes to see him out there and see him moving well, not be in pain,'' Carlisle said.
Kidd's return was a boost. Odom's departure is, too. And it certainly helped that the opponent was a poor Kings team that has now lost on 16 straight visits to Dallas.
Really, the only emotional downturns came when players were asked to comment on the departed Odom.
"I'm not going to sit here and bash a teammate,'' Dirk said.
"Well, he was a part of this team and I'm sorry the situation happened,'' Marion added.
Defending-champ Dallas is 32-26 and seventh in the Western Conference standings. The Mavs are a half-game behind sixth-place Houston and only a half-game ahead of Denver and immediately after the Tuesday game boarded a plane for the West Coast where at Golden State on Thursday they will begin a stretch that features them playing six of their final eight games on the road.
For Dirk and Cuban and the Mavs, there will be no more in-fighting. The task is clear -- and finally, so is the opponent.