- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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DALLAS – The only thing completely clear in the mysterious Lamar Odom saga is that Mark Cuban won’t even consider a midseason buyout.
“We want him to contribute,” Cuban said. “We want him to help. What’s the point? That doesn’t do us any good if he’s gone. It doesn’t buy us anything if we buy him out.”
Well, it could create a little more salary cap space for this summer. Odom has one year at a salary of $8.2 million remaining on his contract, but he can be bought out for $2.4 million this summer. Say the rumors really are true and Odom really wants out of Dallas – maybe the Mavs can give him $1 million to go away. That cap hit would be split between this season and next season, meaning in this instance, the Mavs would have created an additional $1.9 million in cap space for their offseason shopping with Odom on the books for only half a million bucks.
“That’s not enough of a reason,” Cuban said as he sweated on his stairmaster before the Mavs’ loss Tuesday night. “I like what he can do for the team a lot more than I like that money.”
As awful as Odom has been – and it’s hard to find bigger underachiever in the NBA this season – Cuban has a point. Just look at the lack of production at backup power forward for proof.
The Mavs are lost without Khloe’s little Lam Lam. At least, they lose without Odom.
OK, it’s a small sample size, but the Mavs are 0-3 in games Odom has missed, losing to the Thunder, Lakers and Nets. Third- and fourth-string power forwards Yi Jianlian and Brian Cardinal combined for 12 points and seven rebounds in those three games, in which Dirk Nowitzki logged 38, 36 and 36 minutes.
Coach Rick Carlisle doesn’t intend to use Brandan Wright as a power forward, because the Mavs need a shooter in that position to properly space the floor in their system. Shawn Marion, who played many of the power forward minutes when Nowitzki wasn’t on the floor last season, isn’t a feasible option because his plate is overflowing with his point guard-chasing duties.
The Mavs cling to the hope that Odom flips the switch at some point this season and resembles the dude who has been a high-quality NBA player for the last dozen seasons. But even a mediocre Odom helps the Mavs, because it allows Carlisle to manage Nowitzki’s minutes, preventing the lockout-compressed season from killing the 33-year-old superstar’s legs.
That makes this nine-game-in-12-nights stretch the worst possible time in the regular season for this Odom mystery to be unfolding. At this point, he’ll miss at least one more game.
“It’s tough. It’s tough,” Nowitzki said. “He’s going through some stuff, I guess. We’ve just got to wait and see what happens.”
The one thing that won’t happen, Cuban insists, is a midseason buyout. Saving a few dollars by cutting ties with Dirk’s disappointing backup doesn’t make sense to Cuban.
4hArash Markazi and Ben Alamar
4dMatt Walks, ESPN.com
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29dMatt Walks, ESPN.com