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Saturday, March 3, 2012
Updated: March 4, 3:28 AM ET
Lamar Odom shows 'bounce' vs. Jazz

By Jean-Jacques Taylor
ESPNDallas.com

DALLAS -- Expectations should no longer exist for Lamar Odom given how poorly he has played since the Dallas Mavericks acquired him just before the season started.

Whatever he gives the Mavs must be considered a bonus.

No more, no less.

Dirk Nowitzki
Lamar Odom showed signs of life in his return to the Mavericks, prompting coach Rick Carlisle to say afterward, "Now that he's done it, he needs to do it again and again and again."

After all, he has shown us nothing this season to make any of us trust his ability to perform at a high level each night. And for the past couple of weeks, we can't even trust that he'll show up.

Pathetic.

Ridiculous.

Absurd.

In 38 games this season, Odom has wrecked a reputation he spent 13 NBA seasons forging, including the previous seven with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Odom, an enigma wrapped in a riddle -- as a friend likes to describe him -- began the process of regaining the trust and respect of his coaches and teammates on Saturday night when he returned to the lineup in the Mavs' 102-96 win over the Utah Jazz after a strange eight-day absence filled with rumor and innuendo that began Feb. 22 so he could tend to a personal matter.

When Odom, who thanked his teammates for their support just before the game began, stepped on the court with 7:36 left in the first quarter, he received polite applause mixed with a few boos.

Odom had little impact in the first half during eight nondescript minutes. He scored his only bucket on a nifty driving layup that occurred because he ran the court well and attacked the basket strong from the baseline.

When he returned for the second time, there were considerably more boos mixed with the applause. Carlisle appeared to yank Odom in the second quarter after a botched defensive assignment led to an easy bucket by Paul Millsap.

In the third quarter, however, we saw the guy who turned in quality all-around performances on a nightly basis for the Lakers.

Odom grabbed a couple of rebounds in traffic. He fired a two-handed outlet pass that resulted in a transition 3-pointer by Jason Terry. He beat Utah's defense down the court, enabling him to find a wide open Vince Carter for a 3-pointer. Odom hit a 3-pointer from the corner and scored on a driving layup.

When he entered the game, the Mavs led 59-49; when he left, the Mavs led 82-62. As Odom headed to the bench, the crowd cheered and Carlisle gave him some love before Dirk Nowitzki slapped his butt.

"He was into it tonight," Carlisle said. "Now that he's done it, he needs to do it again and again and again. He needs to do it 28 more times this season.

"When he walked in today, there was a bounce that we haven't seen."

The fans have been supportive; the team and the owner have been beyond accommodating.

But Carlisle let the world know Friday afternoon on the Galloway & Co. radio show on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM that the standard is no longer being lowered for Odom. He'll either play with the effort and intensity required of every other Mavs player, or he'll find himself on the bench.

Hallelujah. It's about time.

Actually, Odom was supposed to play for the D-League's Frisco Legends on Saturday night to improve his conditioning before joining the Mavs in Oklahoma City on Monday. But that was before the Mavs' debacle in New Orleans on Friday night when they lost to the Western Conference's worst team, extending their losing streak to a season-high four games.

The Mavs, as they should have, decided they needed whatever Odom could provide more than the Legends did.

It turned out well for the Mavs on Saturday night. The key to their season is whether Odom can consistently replicate any semblance of the performance he turned in against the Jazz.

What you have to remember is Odom has never been a star. He's never been a guy like Dirk, who can take over a game like he did with his 40-point performance against Utah. Odom is at his best when he's filling up several categories on the stat sheet.

Odom no longer fancies himself simply a basketball player. He also considers himself an entertainer since he and his wife star in a reality show.

Folks around here don't care.

They just want him to play basketball like he cares.

"Sometimes, when you're an athlete or an entertainer, there are certain things you need to take care of so you move on," Odom said. "I did that."

Now, we'll see if he can keep doing it.

Jean-Jacques Taylor is a columnist for ESPNDallas.com.