Odom Options: Deadline Deal Mavs Didn't Do
It is the Dallas Mavericks' customary desire to Asset Management their way to success. That includes the annual examination of possible deadline deals.
What DallasBasketball.com proposed back on Feb. 15, a month in advance of the NBA trade deadline, was a way to use Lamar Odom while also keeping top-of-mind the "3D Blueprint'' concept. Deron Williams and/or Dwight Howard along with Dirk … 3D's.
Really, we did more than propose the move of Odom; we predicted the exploration of it ... and then we predicted a final decision to pass. ... to instead retain Odom in the hopes that he'd "flip a switch'' in time to help the Mavs in the playoffs.
Odom is gone now, dumped into the limbo of the "inactive'' pile. What's left in his wake?
We saw in February a number of options, including one big possibility: It involved Odom … and we even identified the cities to where Dallas might dump him.
We were certain that Dallas would become involved in phone calls that might mean Lamar Odom could get traded away to Indiana, Sacramento, or Cleveland.
Odom was an enigma here from the start, a problem compounded by his sensitivity to his lack of long-term future in Dallas. (We've offered the educated guess that LO's funk in Dallas is related in part to his awareness of his future and him feeling "unwanted'' as a result.)
But right to the deadline, members of the Triangle of Trust remained confidence in Odom's value. Carlisle, despite the frustrations to date, believed that if they could hang on and harness the upside, Odom might provide a huge boost in their chance at a repeat.
From January 26:
"Hey listen, we believe in Lamar," Carlisle said. "This has been a struggle so far, but this guy can play. We're going to keep supporting him and keep believing in him and he's going to get better and better."
But from a front-office perspective?
If they'd pulled the plug and traded him away to a team with cap space, they could've avoided paying luxury tax this season (which also becomes one of the tax-free years needed to avoid the repeater surcharge on taxpayers). An added benefit, avoiding the $2.4 million cap hit in 2012 if he's waived in June could've alternately been accomplished by trading him in June, but eliminating the taxpayer status for 2012 was a now-or-never decision at the deadline.
And now it's "never.''
Our concepts at the time were very specific. To land below the tax line this season, the Mavs only practical option was trading Odom. And the places with the needed cap room were be Indiana, Sacramento, or Cleveland.
That's how clear this was, for those who understood the rules and the goals: We had the exact player and we had the exact potential teams.
It would've been so simple. The Mavs could've taken back a player with a salary up to around $4.4 million if necessary, and still avoided ending up as a taxpayer. They would've probably offer cash to help offset his future buyout if they had to.
Instead, the Mavs -- wanting to win badly enough when the season started to deliberately put themselves into the taxpayer category by acquiring Odom -- stayed there when the rules gave them an escape hatch.
Lamar's time in Dallas isn't a cautionary tale of Khloe and reality TV and all that silliness. Cuban, Dirk, Carlisle ... none of them were ever bothered by that. And hey, Khloe showed up to the games and cheered; what's wrong with that?
No, this is a tale of the Mavs trying to hit a homerun with a bat but instead wielding a shovel that's dug them a hole. The organization was certainly aware of the Odom-related tax implications and certainly aware, as we were, of the Indiana/Sacramento/Cleveland options.
They screwed themselves with an Error of Arrogance, thinking they could fix a Lamar Odom that is broken.
As far as we know, they didn't seriously explore the Indiana/Sacramento/Cleveland options. At the time, we supported their support of their player.
They were wrong. We were wrong. But nobody in this mess is as wrong, as culpable, as the person who failed to reward his employer's faith in him -- as best exemplified by the deadline decision to retain him -- with effort.