Commentary

Can't judge Lamar Odom on debut

But Mavs need versatile piece to stay on the court so he can learn role in new system

Updated: December 25, 2011, 9:48 PM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

DALLAS -- The first 15 seconds of Lamar Odom's debut with the Dallas Mavericks was sensational as he swished a 3-pointer that tied the score with about five minutes left in the first quarter.

The final 12 minutes Sunday were blah.

Odom finished with the same number of fouls as rebounds and as points -- four -- which is never ever a positive for an NBA star.

He made just one of six shots and and delivered virtually no impact as the Miami Heat thumped the Mavs 105-94 in the season opener for both teams.

Just so you know, at one point during the third quarter the Heat led by 35 points.

[+] EnlargeLamar Odom
Jerome Miron/US PresswireLamar Odom's debut with the Mavs didn't go as planned: 13 minutes, four points, four rebounds, four personal fouls, two technical fouls and one ejection.

It'll get better.

For the Mavs. And Odom.

Promise.

We all know Odom is too talented and has been too good for too long to let one game at the start of his 13th season affect him long term.

Actually, the worst part of Odom's performance is that he seemingly let the day's frustration affect him. It's probably because he wants so badly to fit and show the Los Angeles Lakers how dumb they were for trying to trade him to the New Orleans Hornets in the first place.

When that deal, which would've sent Chris Paul to L.A., fell through, Odom demanded a trade. The Lakers obliged and that's why he's wearing the Mavs' blue-and-white uniforms.

In the first half, Odom missed a shot and then picked up a dumb foul more than 30 feet from the basket trying to strip LeBron James, sending him to the bench for the rest of the first half with his third foul.

He was ejected with 5:06 left in the third quarter, when he was called for a charging foul against James. Less than 10 seconds later, he had received two technical fouls and been ejected by referee Scott Foster.

Hey, we've seen this before.

Last season in Game 4 against the Mavs, a frustrated Odom decked Dirk Nowitzki with a forearm shiver and was ejected.

This isn't going to be a pattern, is it?

"Usually after 13 years, a couple of rings, seeing my face and now playing with the champs, you usually get a warning or something like that," Odom said. "I guess I was out of character a little bit.

"The second was probably necessary and the first one was a surprise. I was kind of shocked by the first one. James slid late, the ball was out of my hands and they were up 30 [actually 28]. Usually, you just let them play."

Guess not.

The season is in its infancy and Odom is new to the Mavs, so nothing good will come from scrutinizing Odom's ejection too much.

We'll accept the ref had a quick trigger. It wouldn't be the first time an NBA official wanted to be the center of attention.

Still, Odom must be smarter.

He can't waste any opportunity to play because his transition from the Lakers to the Mavs is going to take more than a couple of games, no matter what Odom says.

"From first grade all the way to college to the NBA, it's pick, roll, help, recover," Odom said. "Basketball is universal language, so I'll be all right."

But it might take a couple of weeks. Maybe longer.

The good news is that with the NBA cramming 66 games in 124 days, the Mavs will be playing so frequently Odom will have plenty of chances to acclimate to Mavs coach Rick Carlisle's offensive sets and his teammates.

Even as bad as Odom played Sunday, we could see glimpses of how he'll eventually impact the Mavs.

He hit the 3-pointer. He made a lovely no-look pass in the lane to Brandan Wright, who bobbled the ball and couldn't finish what should've been an easy dunk.

A couple of times, he faked long jumpers and drove to the basket, where he picked up offensive fouls.

"You can tell how much he wants to be positive and make good things happen," Carlisle said. "He was a little too hasty. That's on us. We need to help him through the process."

Odom spent seven seasons immersed in the Lakers' triangle offense, which is nothing like the offensive sets Carlisle uses. He's also playing power forward, small forward, point forward and center at various time, so he has to digest quite a bit of information.

There's no easy way to work through the process. It takes time. And it can't be rushed.

Not getting ejected will help.

Jean-Jacques Taylor is a columnist for ESPNDallas.com.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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