- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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DALLAS – Lamar Odom, whose one-year stint with the Mavericks was one of the biggest disgraces in Dallas sports history, returns to the scene of the crime Tuesday night.
The court of public opinion has found Odom guilty of first-degree basketball fraud for his antics last season, when his out-of-shape body went through the motions with the Mavericks while he left his heart and mind in Los Angeles.
Khloe’s little Lam Lam was acquitted on one count of attempted murder on the Mavs’ soul. After all, Odom can’t be reasonably accused of trying during his four months of failure in Dallas.
“It was like going to war with wet gunpowder,” Donnie Nelson said after the Mavs parted ways with the veteran in April, summing up the Lamar Odom saga in Dallas.
Alas, the punishment for Odom’s hoops felony is pretty light. Other than a permanently stained reputation for the former reality show star, all Odom has to deal with is the wrath of the American Airlines Center crowd during the Los Angeles Clippers’ lone visit this season.
It’s safe to assume that Mark Cuban will join a sellout crowd in giving Odom a cold welcome. Cuban admits to muttering bad things about Odom under his breath during the Mavs’ two road losses to the Clippers earlier this season. The boo-every-time-he-touches-the-ball treatment would be appropriate.
You can’t blame Cuban for still being furious about Odom’s fraud. Forget what seemed like a steal of a deal backfiring in the Mavs front office’s face. Odom made Cuban look like a fool for having his back over and over again to the point of being perceived as an enabler, especially during Odom’s bizarre post-All-Star-break sabbatical, when the owner met with Odom at the W Hotel to talk him into rejoining the team while the rest of the Mavs were in the midst of the lockout-compressed season’s most grueling stretch of games.
Cuban finally had his fill of Odom’s bull by April 7, well after home fans had started booing him. After seeing Odom loaf through four first-half minutes in Memphis that night, Cuban angrily confronted him in the locker room, repeatedly asking if he was “in or out.” Odom’s response of “stop playing games” didn’t satisfy the owner, who decided to send Odom home for the rest of the season, paying him to just go away.
Oh, and the Mavs aren’t done paying for the Odom ordeal.
Dallas still has to give up a first-round pick to complete the Odom trade. It’s now the property of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who acquired it in the James Harden deal from the Houston Rockets, who acquired it from the Lakers along with Derek Fisher (how fitting) for Jordan Hill.
Maybe the Odom deal, which was made possible by the trade exception created in the sign-and-trade that sent Tyson Chandler to the New York Knicks, was the basketball gods’ way of punishing Cuban for breaking up a team coming off an NBA title.
The basketball gods certainly didn’t enact any vengeance on Odom. He landed back in Los Angeles with the contending Clippers, making the full $8.2 million salary in the final season of his contract to serve as a role player on arguably the NBA’s best bench. (The fact that Dallas was able to trade Odom for essentially nothing instead of having to pay his $2.4 million buyout was considered a minor win for the Mavs.)
Odom hasn’t exactly regained his Sixth Man of the Year from 2010-11. In fact, he’s averaging a career-low 4.1 points per game while shooting an unsightly 38.8 percent from the floor, numbers that are a continuation of his drastic offensive decline last season. However, Odom has been a contributor for the Clippers since getting in reasonably decent shape, averaging 5.8 rebounds in 20.4 minutes and playing good defense.
“He’s in a situation that’s really perfect for him,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said, taking the diplomatic route. “He’s a defender, rebounder and can play off of other people. He’s having a really good year for them.”
Mavs fans have every right to interrupt that “really good year” by making Odom miserable for one night.
9hMatt Walks, ESPN.com
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14dMatt Walks, ESPN.com
24dMatt Walks, ESPN.com