DALLAS -- Derek Fisher said Lamar Odom, his former Los Angeles Lakers teammate, has damaged his reputation among fans and NBA teams with his Mavericks flameout this season, but that the forward is working to repair his personal life and is hopeful to return to the league next season.
"I'm sure he has (hurt his reputation) and it matters to him," Fisher said. "If he never plays basketball again, personally, I could care less because I want him to be where he needs to be on a personal level. I think he will (play again). I think he wants to. The main thing is just that on a personal level he's in a good space. If that's in place, the basketball part will take care of itself."
Fisher, signed by the Oklahoma City Thunder on March 21 after being traded to the Houston Rockets and then waived, has played a key role off the bench in Games 2 and 3 as the Thunder have seized a commanding 3-0 first-round series lead over the defending champion Dallas Mavericks.
Fisher said he has spoken to Odom recently, but he did not want to specify when. Fisher said he believes Odom is heading in a better direction.
"I'll just say I've spoken to him recently and he is doing well and he's in good spirits," Fisher said. "He's working out and keeping himself in shape. He's looking forward to what the future holds, but hopefully a more positive future."
Odom was expected to be a versatile and valuable part of the Mavs' title defense after losing key pieces, including Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea. However, after the Lakers traded Odom to Dallas in December, he reported out of shape and in emotional shambles after a tragic summer.
Odom got off to a slow start and never could gain footing with his new team. His struggles finally culminated April 4 in Memphis where owner Mark Cuban had finally had enough of Odom's lackadaisical effort and poor body language. In the locker room at halftime, Cuban challenged Odom, asking him if he was in or out. Dissatisfied with Odom's answer, Cuban essentially kicked him off the team. Odom, last season's Sixth Man of the Year, was placed on the inactive list and returned to Los Angeles.
Fisher, surprised himself to be traded from the Lakers after they acquired point guard Ramon Sessions, would have faced off against Odom for the first time in the playoffs. Last season as Lakers teammates, they were ousted in a second-round sweep by the Mavs.
"I'm saddened and disappointed so to speak, but not stunned because knowing Lamar, the things that have happened in his life personally, those things impact him to a level that's hard to describe," Fisher said of the events that transpired in Dallas. "I know it was tough for fans. I think a lot of the focus was about he was where he was because he wasn't on the Lakers anymore, but the tragic summer he experienced on a personal level by far outweighed it. The pain he experienced there was far greater."
Odom dealt with the death of a close cousin and, while in New York for the funeral, the car Odom was a passenger in was involved in an accident that killed a teenaged cyclist. Odom said numerous times while in Dallas that those situations rekindled unresolved emotions from other tragic losses in his life.
Since his return to L.A., Odom and his wife, reality star Khloe Kardashian, have agreed to indefinitely postpone production of their reality show, "Khloe & Lamar," so he can concentrate on a return to basketball.
Odom recently has resumed issuing comments via his Twitter account. In one he dubbed himself the "ThecomeBackKid!" and in another he made reference to playing on Team USA in this summer's Olympic Games, writing "Olympics here we come USA!"
Odom, a member of the 2004 Olympic team and the 2010 World Championship team, could still have a place on the squad this summer. During a news conference in Las Vegas to promote a Team USA tune-up game in July, USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said Odom remains under consideration, saying, "I'm one who is willing to give someone a second chance. I would like to think he'd like to put this season behind him. His Dallas episode hurt his image."