Commentary

Skepticism grows about Lamar Odom

Mavericks' depth continues to be tested as questions creep in about forward's future

Updated: March 1, 2012, 5:34 PM ET
By Jeff Caplan | ESPNDallas.com

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Dallas Mavericks' vaunted depth is being pushed to the limit at a horrible time.

"It obviously sucks right now," said Dirk Nowitzki, the latest to be sidelined after a freak tweak of his lower back during warm-ups took him out early in the second quarter of Wednesday's 96-85 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. "We're already down without L.O., without D-West, and we're in a tough stretch and we need every win."

Without Nowitzki for all but 10 minutes Wednesday night against the surging Grizzlies, Delonte West back in Dallas with his right hand incapacitated and Lamar Odom still on indefinite personal leave, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle mixed and matched and hoped for a miracle that didn't come.

[+] EnlargeLamar Odom
AP Photo/Tony DejakLamar Odom has been away from the Mavericks for over a week dealing with a family matter.

It was a night on which Carlisle and the Mavs could have used the 6-foot-10 Odom, whose excused absence from the team has stretched a full week. Within the locker room, threre's growing skepticism that Odom won't join the team in New Orleans for Friday's game against the Hornets.

Carlisle said he hopes to have an update on Odom's situation Thursday.

A source close to the situation said there is a growing feeling in the locker room that Odom might not return at all.

Before Tuesday's home loss to the New Jersey Nets, Mavs owner Mark Cuban said he does expect Odom to rejoin the club at some point. Cuban, who wasn't with the team Wednesday night, also reiterated that he is not interested in negotiating a buyout.

As long as Cuban continues to back him, Odom -- who left the team last Wednesday to tend to his ill father -- will reap the benefit of the doubt. Cuban on Tuesday said Odom "has to clear things out, and that's what we're trying to help him do."

Within the locker room, players who have shown patience and support throughout the last 2½ drama-filled months might be starting to show some cracks. Players don't seem to be completely aware of what might be at the root of Odom's extended absence. The Mavs will not elaborate publicly beyond calling it a family matter.

Before Tuesday's game, point guard Jason Kidd addressed the situation, saying, "It's going to work itself out one way or another. We just hope it works itself out soon."

After Wednesday's third consecutive loss and the third consecutive game Odom has missed, Jason Terry said it is up to management to figure out a resolution.

"We've got to go with the players we got," Terry said. "If you're here, you can help us. But, our sympathies go out to his family."

The Grizzlies had little sympathy for the depleted Mavs. Behind Marc Gasol's 22 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and four blocked shots, Memphis continually fended off Dallas' scrambling comeback attempts. But a 5-0 surge to end the third quarter and an 8-0 run to start the fourth were too much to overcome as the Mavs drifted to a third consecutive loss and fourth in five games, their worst stretch since starting the season 1-4.

To their credit, they never caved. Rodrigue Beaubois, who returned to the team Sunday after grieving the death of his father, pushed himself to near-exhaustion, playing nearly 38 minutes and more than 20 in the second half.

He finished with 16 points, two shy of Terry's team-high 18, but neither guard shot well, particularly from behind the arc where they combined to go 2-of-12. Nobody shot well, for that matter, a recurring symptom with this team even when Nowitzki is on the floor.

Dallas managed 18 points in each the third and fourth quarters, enduring cold snaps that resulted in a 35.7 shooting percentage in the second half. It came after Beaubois supplied 12 points in the second quarter in which Dallas made 13 of 17 shots to erase a 27-19 deficit, when Nowitzki left, to take a 49-47 halftime lead.

It didn't help that the Mavs were depleted at power forward, forcing Carlisle to rotate Yi Jianlian, Brandan Wright and Brian Cardinal for 44 minutes.

Nowitzki said his plan is to play Friday in New Orleans. The team will rest Thursday, and Nowitzki will receive treatment on his back.

Still, Carlisle will likely have to keep a close watch on the face of the franchise as the Mavs move into the third game of this stretch of nine in 12 days, the most rigorous portion of their 66-game schedule.

"We'll have to see where we are personnel-wise on Friday," Carlisle said. "And, again, it's a situation where we've got to go with the guys that are available."

Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.

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