Commentary

Lamar Odom still has much to prove

Mavs forward had his rebirth and we can hope that's the first step of his redemption

Updated: March 5, 2012, 12:17 PM ET
By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com

DALLAS -- The kid gloves are off with Khloe's little Lam Lam.

Rick Carlisle made that clear during his radio show Friday, when the coach unleashed a measured rant highlighted by his declaration that the Dallas Mavericks' patience had worn thin with Lamar Odom. Carlisle, who spent much of the first half of the season publicly coddling the NBA's underachiever of the year, said what needed to be said. Carlisle said what players were thinking throughout the defending champions' locker room.

The bizarre, four-game, 10-day, self-imposed sabbatical, which led one Maverick to wonder whether it was all a scripted stunt for Odom's reality show with wife Khloe Kardashian (who made the late-night talk-show rounds while Odom dealt with a "family matter"), was simply the straw that caused the camel to call the chiropractor.

[+] EnlargeLamar Odom
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireLamar Odom contributed nine points and five rebounds in 18 minutes in his return Saturday.
Odom's loafing, lackadaisical attitude and lack of commitment have been an issue ever since he arrived in Dallas. He has exhausted every bit of equity he built during his previous dozen NBA seasons, including two title runs and a sixth man of the year campaign with the Lakers in the previous three years.

The man has been stealing money from the Mavs for 2 1/2 months, pocketing more than $4 million while being a pain in the butt much more often than being a productive member of the team. Odom needs to spend the rest of the season repaying his debt in Dallas with sweat, hustle and hard work.

Odom's performance in the second half of his return Saturday night was a start. It's also the standard to which he'll be held.

"This is a rebirth for him," Jason Terry said after Odom played a key role in the Mavs' win over the Jazz, contributing nine points, five rebounds, three assists, three blocks and his share of dirty work in 18 minutes. "If he gives us anything less than what he gave us tonight, Coach will be on him and he's got veterans that will be on his case."

The Mavs know they probably need Odom for their repeat quest to be realistic. Their 0-5 record when he misses games is a painful reminder of that.

But some Mavs would rather just move on without Odom -- who won't get a buyout, but might be banned from the team if he gets back in mail-it-in mode -- than have his saga linger like Los Angeles smog in the locker room.

Jason Kidd, who chooses his words as cautiously as any NBA player, said Odom needs to earn the Mavericks' trust. Kidd added that they're willing to give second chances, third chances.

Who knows how high the count is for Odom at this point?

It's nothing personal against Odom, who is one of the NBA's nicest guys. This is purely professional. The Mavs are in the business of winning, and it's time for Odom to get on board.

Odom openly discussed his traumatic, tragic offseason earlier this season, mentioning that he had considered taking at least a year off from basketball. Odom said at the time that he had gotten his mind right to commit to the Mavs, but he acknowledges now that wasn't the case.

"I've had some things that bothered me and was easily distracted," Odom said. "So it was easy for me to lose my focus. Again, sometimes we need everything in order in order to give ourselves 100 percent."

Now he's ready, Odom insists, after a lengthy personal leave for reasons fully known only to him and a chosen few others. He says his life is in order. He says he wants to be in Dallas, that he's "lucky" and "blessed" to play for a franchise such as the Mavs.

Odom mentioned that people had the choice to "understand" or "judge" the effect his personal issues have had on his performance as a pro this season. Like all professional athletes, he's judged by whether he lives up to his talent level.

Saturday's third quarter reminded just how good Odom can be. It was exactly what Carlisle was thinking when he called for Odom to play like his "pants are on fire." In six minutes, Odom stuffed the box score with five points, four rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot, showing more energy in that stint than he did in the entire first half of the season.

"It's just clear we need this from him every night," Carlisle said. "If he can bring this, if he can bring that kind of energy and engagement, it's going to lift our team to a different level."

That's what Odom owes the Mavs. Every night, not on occasion.

Odom said he didn't listen to Carlisle's radio show and hadn't heard those comments or Kidd's take on trust. Odom brushed them off when asked about them, mentioning that a teammate might say the same thing about Delonte West.

Sorry, dude, but that's a terrible example. West has earned his keep since the second he arrived in Dallas with dirty sneakers and not a whole lot else.

West, who is making the NBA minimum, has been the Mavs' best bargain. Odom, whose salary is $8.9 million this season, has been among the NBA's most overpaid players.

Odom has more to prove the remainder of this season than the rest of the Mavs' roster combined.

"I mean, all I can do is go out there and play basketball," Odom said. "I don't know what you want. Me to go out there and hold a parade or anything like that? Invite everybody in my house or something like that? I just go out there and play basketball.

"If I do and I play hard, then everything will fall into place."

That's exactly right. It's all the Mavs are asking Odom: Just play hard for 20 or 25 minutes per game. If that happens, his talent will take care of the rest.

Odom has had his rebirth. Let's hope that's the first step of his redemption in Dallas.

Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.

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