Monday, December 12, 2011 Updated: December 14, 11:52 AM ET
Lamar Odom makes Mavs contenders
By Jean-Jacques Taylor ESPNDallas.com
For about 48 hours last week, the best professional sports owner in Dallas-Fort Worth during the last decade lost his credibility.
Not all of it, mind you, but a chunk of it, which is what happens when Mark Cuban let players such as Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea and Caron Butler leave for free agency because of some fantasy about clearing enough salary-cap space to persuade Chris Paul, Deron Williams or Dwight Howard to sign here in the summer of 2012.
Never mind that Dirk Nowitzki, the Dallas Mavericks' lone superstar, would be 34. As good as Dirk is, at some point Father Time is going to whup his butt.
What front office guts a championship team with an aging superstar for a hope and a dream?
At 6-10, Lamar Odom can drive to the basket or shoot from 3-point range.
You keep the core intact and chase a ring because we can't expect to see a unique talent like Dirk around here once he's gone.
Besides, no big-time free agent the caliber of those players has ever signed with the Mavs. Miami, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago will continue to be the most desirable places for free agents, with Dallas-Fort Worth high atop the next tier.
Well, the reason Cuban has been the best owner around here for so long is that he's a creative thinker.
It's the reason he's a billionaire, and it's the reason he salvaged the franchise's credibility with the acquisition of Lamar Odom, who's expected to attend the Mavs' media day Tuesday, late Saturday night.
Although acquiring Odom leaves virtually every MFFL -- Mavs Fan For Life -- grinning from ear to ear, it makes Cuban look bad.
Big business, regardless of the industry, is a dirty game. It's the epitome of social Darwinism -- only the strong survive.
But ask yourself, is it hypocrisy, irony or neither that allowed the Mavs to acquire Odom?
Hypocrisy seems like the correct answer.
Cuban, in essence, said there's no way the New Orleans Hornets should be allowed to trade Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers in a three-team deal that would've netted the Hornets Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Odom, backup guard Goran Dragic and a 2012 first-round pick because the NBA experienced a lockout to ensure big-market teams didn't pilfer small-market teams.
Then a day after the NBA nixed the Hornets' trade, the Mavs acquired Odom for a bag of magic beans and a couple pairs of Air Jordan XVIIs. Shocking considering the Mavs swept the Lakers out of the playoffs last season, but the Lakers said Odom demanded to be traded since Los Angeles no longer wanted him.
No wonder so many folks have conspiracy theories when it comes to the NBA.
No one around here is feeling sorry for Lakers, but you should sympathize with the Hornets. The NBA and Cuban, who was among the whiny owners complaining publicly or privately about the Hornets-Lakers deal, have decimated that franchise.
Frankly, the league might as well contract it.
Really, though, all you care about is what Odom's presence means for the Mavs.
It means the Mavs are a contender.
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The Mavs have won at least 50 games each of the last 11 seasons. They won't do that this season, since teams are playing only 66 games, but they should have a good opportunity to win at least 40 games, which would be 60 percent of their games, the equivalent of 50 wins.
Understand, these Mavs aren't as good or as physical as the championship team. And we have no idea whether they'll have the same wonderful chemistry.
But they're a considerably more versatile team since Odom, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and Shawn Marion play multiple positions. Dirk and Odom can each play center, when Carlisle wants Brendan Haywood on the bench.
At 6-10, Odom can drive or shoot from 3-point range. He can bring the ball up the court and get the Mavs into their offense. He's good in transition and he can post up.
He's as unique a talent as you will find in the NBA.
More important, adding Odom to this team's core makes the Mavs a contender, something they weren't without him.
Considering Dirk's age, that would've been a travesty. As long as Dirk is among the game's elite players, the Mavs must put a championship-caliber team around him.
They can't sacrifice seasons like they were willing to do until the Odom trade fell in the Mavs' lap.
Jean-Jacques Taylor is a columnist for ESPNDallas.com.