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Is one-and-done prospect bothering Lamar Odom?

2/28/2012

We can only assume that Lamar Odom is still tending to a family matter as Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle first announced on Wednesday prior to the game against Odom's old team, the Los Angeles Lakers.

Odom did not report Monday when the team reconvened for practice after the All-Star break.

A source confirmed Monday that Odom left the team Wednesday because his father is ill. Carlisle did not offer a time frame for Odom's return and declined to talk further about the 6-foot-10 forward that has gone from last season's Sixth Man of the Year to a mystery man.

Twitter-fueled speculation Monday night suggested that Odom is considering a buyout and possibly even retirement. Mavs owner Mark Cuban quickly extinguished that rumor from the Mavs' perspective: "It hasn't been discussed and we wouldn't do it. We think Lamar can be a huge plus for us."

The illness to his father, Joe, is another in a line of emotional hits Odom has had to absorb. His tragic summer is well-documented and after briefly contemplating retirement, he arrived in Dallas physically out of shape and emotionally, he acknowledged, in a difficult place.

His subpar season has reflected it and there still could be other issues lingering that are bothering the 13-year veteran.

The source that confirmed his father's illness also reiterated that Odom, a player that requires near-constant affirmation, coddling and direction, could be feeling stress over the prospect of not being retained next season. One and done in Dallas would again put his jolted career, his famous wife and popular reality TV show on the move.

"We have never said he is not part of our plans for next year," Cuban said. "Sometimes guys go through issues and we have to deal with them. We always try to support our guys."

Cuban has for months made known his intention to clear cap space, which would allow the Mavs to make a run this summer at free agents-to-be Deron Williams and/or Dwight Howard. Odom's $8.2 million deal for next season, the final year of his contract, is only about one-fourth guaranteed. It made him attractive to acquire because his salary can be wiped off the books.

"You guys [media] do all the speculating on next year," Cuban said. "I've only said that we have had to make changes because of the CBA [collective bargaining agreement]. Nothing more or less."

Cuban has not publicly stated or even hinted that Odom is out of the picture next season, but Odom's agent, Jeff Schwartz, has surely suggested as much to his client, if Odom hasn't himself read the tea leaves. He's certainly been asked about the possibility by reporters.

For Odom, the trade from the Lakers -- and more the initial sting of being packaged in the quashed deal with the Hornets -- hit hard. At the Mavs' media day in mid-December, Odom said, "I guess this has turned into a business for some us, which is a little weird."

For now, all we can assume is that Odom is caring for his dad and that he will be back with the Mavs soon, seeking a turnaround second half.