Commentary

Lamar Odom can only hurt Mavericks

Dallas needs to ship power forward back to L.A. and focus on defending its title

Updated: March 24, 2012, 5:42 PM ET
By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com

SAN ANTONIO -- Well, you can't fault Lamar Odom for this loss.

Odom had no more impact on this game than the old lady sitting behind media row who asked a couple of reporters at halftime if Manu Ginobili was No. 41 on the Dallas Mavericks.

Then again, Odom probably didn't have much more interest in this game than she did, either. Of course, that's often been the case even when Odom has actually played this season.

But let's not be too harsh on Khloe's little Lam Lam, who watched from the bench Friday night while his teammates got their butts kicked by the San Antonio Spurs, 104-87. Hey, his feelings were already hurt this week when the home crowd was rude and booed him during his woeful one-point, one-rebound, one-assist outing in Wednesday's loss to his beloved Los Angeles Lakers.

[+] EnlargeLamar Odom
Max Faulkner/Getty ImagesCoach Rick Carlisle benched Lamar Odom in the Mavericks' loss to the Spurs.

Bad got even worse for Odom when he was benched at the AT&T Center.

It's about time.

Now the Mavs -- and owner Mark Cuban, in particular -- need to take it a step further. Just let Lam Lam and his reality show entourage head back to Los Angeles for the rest of the season. Send him a hefty paycheck every couple of weeks, but keep his saga far, far away from a team trying to work its way into title-defending form.

That's what should happen. Just don't get your hopes up.

Coach Rick Carlisle was back in butt-patting mode with Odom minutes after the loss. Carlisle, who attributed Odom's first career DNP-CD to a desire to "look at a different rotation," hinted that Odom could have helped the Mavs avoid getting humiliated by a 54-34 margin in the rebounding department.

"It shows that Lamar's minutes are valuable to us," Carlisle said. "So, we've got to keep him in the fold."

Sorry, but that comment by Carlisle smells a lot like leftover droppings from the bulls who just came through these parts for the annual San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo.

The dozen years of evidence that Odom is a quality NBA player don't matter. It just isn't going to work for him in Dallas.

Odom simply is not going to help the Mavs. He can only hurt them.

Not that Odom means any harm. He's self-absorbed but not malicious. He doesn't understand that his ongoing saga is a strain to a team that succeeded last season in large part because of chemistry. Keeping him around is just inviting distractions.

Just move forward, Mavs. Let Shawn Marion play power forward when Dirk Nowitzki needs rest, a formula that worked just fine during last year's title run. Vince Carter is more than capable of splitting time with Marion at small forward. The Mavs will have plenty of backcourt depth when Delonte West returns from a fractured right ring finger soon.

Nobody in their right mind can make a case that Odom deserves a spot in the Mavs' rotation on merit. Nor can Odom.

"I'll leave that up to coach," he said.

Odom has been horrendous for two-thirds of this lockout-compressed season. Statistically speaking, he's literally half the man he used to be -- and it's trending in the wrong direction. Odom and the Mavs aren't going to suddenly come up with a magic solution down the stretch of the season, no matter how much meaningless optimism is expressed.

"Oh, I mean, that can happen," Odom said as unconvincingly as possible. "It's there. It's all about fine-tuning it, keeping ready here and here" -- pointing at his head and body -- "[and] staying in a good place mentally and physically."

Odom reported to Dallas -- after demanding a trade from L.A. because the Lakers dared to try to deal him for Chris Paul -- in horrible shape physically and worse shape mentally. His conditioning got up to speed after a couple of months, but Odom has never been fully engaged mentally with the Mavs.

And it's foolish to keep hoping that he ever will be.

Just listen to Dirk Nowitzki, the superstar who had consistently preached about Odom's potential to play a key role in a Mavs playoff run. At this point, Dirk can't even pretend to think that Odom will be prepared to contribute to Dallas' repeat bid that begins in a little more than a month, assuming the Mavs make the playoffs.

"If he keeps working, we'll see what the future brings," Nowitzki said. "I mean, I can't tell you anything else."

This isn't an X's and O's issue, as Kobe Bryant claimed while backing his buddy the other night. There are few, if any, coaches better at adapting to their personnel than Carlisle.

The problem is Odom won't -- or can't -- fully commit to the Mavs. Or, perhaps, just to playing basketball.

Maybe it's because he misses L.A. and the Lakers so much. Maybe it's because of his personal issues, including the deaths he grieved this summer, his father's rumored health issues, the strain of being in a reality show marriage and whatever else kept him away from the team. Maybe it's because he knows he'll get a buyout this summer and will soon be looking for a new NBA home, if he even wants to continue his basketball career.

Not to come off as too cruel, but who really cares at this point? Regardless of the reason, the conclusion has to be it just isn't going to happen with Odom.

You think he cares?

"Just be myself," Odom said when asked how he would respond to riding pine Friday night. "Life's good."

Let Odom get back to living the good life in L.A. The Mavs need to focus on the business of winning basketball games, not begging him to get on board.

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