DALLAS -- Lamar Odom is just waiting to find his legs. Not literally, but in the physical sense. He is, admittedly, not yet in NBA condition, and it's hurting his game.
Hurting it to the point that he played just 17 minutes Thursday night at Oklahoma City and prior to Friday's game against the Toronto Raptors, coach Rick Carlisle said the versatile 6-foot-10 forward is going to have to earn his minutes or he will ride the pine.
"We can’t unconditionally play him. That will hurt our team," Carlisle said. "Now, if he’s trending in the right way and doing the kind of things that we think, that we know he’s going to be able to do, hell yeah we can [play him major minutes]. Look, every day is going to be a new day. He’s made progress even though he’s not there yet. We’ve got to stay positive about it."
Carlisle said he has enacted an "action plan" to get Odom into shape. That included a heavy dose of running Friday morning. After Friday night's 99-83 win over the Toronto Raptors, Carlisle called it like a two-a-day for Odom.
Odom, who finished with three points on 0-of-3 shooting and four rebounds in just 11:34, certainly doesn't sound like a man who is overly concerned.
"Need more energy," he said. "You’ve got to let the game just come to you. Our life is based on what have you done for me. I’m not in the auditioning stages of my career, that part is over. I’ll go out and keep trucking, working hard and when my legs come under me you’ll see a different player."
The introspective and ever-interesting Odom rattled off his last three or four seasons --"beat Boston... beat Orlando... go win a gold medal..." -- and finished each off with the same ending, "best shape of my life."
Then came the lockout and then came the squashed trade to the New Orleans Hornets earlier this month that stung Odom and eventually landed him in Dallas on short notice and with training camp already underway. Apparently, Odom had temporarily allowed his mind to wander away from basketball and training for the season.
"Some things happen that took me away from the game; took some time off," Odom said. "You’ve got to be right mentally as a person first before you do any of this."
In three games, he's 4-of-27 from the floor, and the notion that he looks disinterested has been floating around the airwaves.
Odom scoffs at that and goes back to conditioning as being the only issue holding him back. So how close does he feel he is?
"I don’t know because those things kind of happen overnight," Odom said. "What happens is you’ll play and what you’ve not been able to play through or things that have slowed you down, they won’t when you get into shape. When you get into shape, you don’t see it happen, it just kind of happens."
Mavs owner Mark Cuban said he's not concerned about Odom's slow start, trusting the veteran will come around as he becomes more familiar with a system.
"It takes time to learn, right?" Cuban said. "It’s like when we’ve made trades in the past. This isn’t Nellie’s [former coach Don Nelson] system where you just throw the ball on the floor and everybody goes and runs. We’ve got a system and you’ve got to learn it, and you’ve got to learn how to play Mavericks basketball."
And, according to Odom, get into proper condition.
"Once I get right, I’ll be all right. I’m one of the best players to ever play," Odom said. "I'm the only player that can't make an All-Star team, but can play on the Olympic team."
The man has a point. The Mavs hope they see that man sooner rather than later.