Sources: Mavs, Lamar Odom close

Updated: March 2, 2012, 10:18 AM ET
By Marc Stein | ESPN.com

The Dallas Mavericks hope to have Lamar Odom back in uniform in a matter of days, but it might not immediately be a Mavs uniform, sources said.

Odom is likely to play at least one game with the Mavericks' D-League affiliate in nearby Frisco to, as one source said, "get his legs back under him." The Texas Legends play the Austin Toros at home Saturday night, however the team said that Odom wouldn't be practicing with them on Friday.

The Mavericks are in New Orleans on Friday night and host the Utah Jazz on Saturday.

A team spokesman had said earlier Thursday that Odom will not make the trip to New Orleans. The team plans to provide another update on Odom's status before Saturday's game.

While the team was in Memphis Wednesday, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban met in Dallas with Odom and his agent, Jeff Schwartz, to work on a timetable that would ease Odom back after his weeklong personal leave.

Cuban could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday. But he made it clear before Tuesday's home game against New Jersey that Odom would get as much time as necessary to work through a family matter that prompted management to excuse the 13-year veteran from the team last week.

Neither Odom nor Schwartz could be reached for comment.

Forcefully ruling out growing speculation that Odom was seeking a buyout of his contract, Cuban had insisted Tuesday that he expected Odom to ultimately return to the team, saying Odom is "dealing with issues and like we do with anybody else who's had personal issues, my job is to help him out and not to comment beyond that. He has to clear things out and that's what we're trying to help him do."

Two sources with knowledge of Odom's thinking told ESPN.com earlier this week that -- while the 32-year-old admittedly did briefly ponder retirement during the offseason following the death of a younger cousin -- Odom wants to keep playing despite his season-long struggles.

He left the team before the All-Star break to attend to his ill father in Los Angeles, sources confirmed Monday to ESPNDallas.com.

"We're not going to buy out anybody, there's no reason to do it," Cuban said. "We're not going to do that. That's not the way we work. We try to find what the problem is and fix it."

One source close to the situation told ESPNDallas.com's Jeff Caplan after Wednesday's road loss to the Grizzlies that there is a growing feeling in the locker room that Odom might not return at all.

Yet Carlisle and Cuban continue to express confidence that Odom still can be what the owner refers to as a "huge plus" for the defending champions despite his meager production thus far (7.7 points and 4.5 rebounds per game).

The reality is that the Mavericks have lost all three games Odom has missed and lack depth at power forward behind Dirk Nowitzki.

The league's reigning Sixth Man of the Year reported to his new team out of shape after a turbulent offseason personally and professionally, culminating with his near trade from the Los Angeles Lakers to the league-owned Hornets in a deal for Chris Paul that was later canceled by NBA commissioner David Stern, who is acting as the Hornets' lead decision-maker.

Odom had three poor games before leaving the team, which had followed three hopeful ones that had Carlisle suggesting on his weekly radio show on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM that the Mavericks were as close as they'd been all season to seeing Odom turn the corner.

"It's going to work itself out one way or another," Mavericks guard Jason Kidd said Tuesday of the Odom situation. "We just hope it works itself out soon."

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

Marc Stein covers the NBA for ESPN.com and is a frequent contributor to ESPNDallas.com. Jeff Caplan and Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com contributed to this report.

Marc Stein | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
• Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics

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