Friday, March 23, 2012
Updated: March 24, 5:42 PM ET
Rick Carlisle benches Lamar Odom
By Tim MacMahon
SAN ANTONIO -- The worst season of Lamar Odom's 13-year NBA career reached yet another new low for the second time this week Friday night.
Odom, coming off a one-point, one-rebound, one-assist, 24-minute outing in Wednesday's loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, never removed his warmups during the Dallas Mavericks' 104-87 loss to the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center.
It is the first time Odom, a key part of two Lakers title teams and the Sixth Man of the Year last season, can remember not playing in a game because of a coach's decision. Coach Rick Carlisle said he informed Odom before the game of his plan to "look at a different rotation."
Odom has struggled personally and professionally since being traded to Dallas in a December salary-dump deal, a transaction triggered by his request to leave the Lakers after they tried to include him in the Chris Paul trade vetoed by commissioner David Stern. Odom, who is averaging career lows in almost every category, answered questions about his benching with a broader perspective.
"Expect the unexpected as far as life's concerned," Odom said. "I've been through a lot. It's not too much I haven't seen. So I understand it. I'm a team guy. Whatever. He's the coach."
Odom admitted earlier this season that he considered taking a hiatus from basketball after a traumatic offseason, when a beloved cousin died and Odom was a passenger in a SUV involved in a fatal accident with a teenage cyclist. Odom took a 10-day personal leave for unspecified reasons, missing four games in the middle of the season.
As Odom was preparing to return from that personal leave, Carlisle said the organization's patience had worn thin with the talented forward. However, Carlisle consistently has been supportive of Odom since then and continued to call Odom "valuable" to the team even after opting not to play him Friday night.
"It shows that Lamar's minutes are valuable to us," Carlisle said of the loss, which dropped the 27-22 Mavs' record to 0-6 when Odom does not play. "So, we've got to keep him in the fold.
"It gives us another rebounder. Rebounding was a big issue tonight and he's one of our best rebounders. There are a lot of reasons he's been valuable for us even though his numbers aren't great this year. ... Going forward, we're going to keep him involved. It really helps having a ninth guy with double-figure minutes, especially this season."
Odom, whose season averages of 7.0 points and 4.4 rebounds are roughly half his career norms, has gotten worse since returning from his personal leave a few games after the All-Star break. He is averaging only 5.1 points and 4.0 rebounds in 11 games, shooting 30.1 percent while the boos from the home crowd get progressively louder and more intense.
Odom admitted being bothered by the boos, which prompted his wife, reality show co-star Khloe Kardashian, to plead to Mavs fans via Twitter to exhibit "positive energy." Odom implied that being benched against the Spurs further damaged his fragile psyche.
"I mean, a situation like this, do you think it helps or hurts confidence?" he said.
But Odom, who was laughing and joking with teammate Dominique Jones as they dressed after the loss, also downplayed the impact of his professional struggles several times. He said "life's good" and "I'm so much more than a sportsman."
Odom also used a tragic incident, the death of his infant son, Jayden, in 2006, to illustrate that he's been through harder times than being benched for a basketball game.
"I've buried a child," Odom said. "You know what I'm saying? I've buried a baby."
But Odom, whose desire and effort have been questioned throughout the season, also insisted that basketball remains extremely important to him. He expressed optimism he'll be able to contribute to the Mavs' attempt to defend their NBA title.
"I hope so. I think so, yeah," Odom said. "We've still got games to play. We play tomorrow. From the looks of it, it looks like they're going to have the NBA playoffs. You know what I mean? This team is looking like they're going to play for it all. Hopefully, my time will come to make shots and make plays."
Expect the unexpected as far as life's concerned. I've been through a lot. It's not too much I haven't seen. So I understand it. I'm a team guy. Whatever. He's the coach.
-- Lamar Odom