Monday, March 26, 2012
Updated: March 27, 10:27 AM ET
Lamar Odom calls boos 'hurtful'
By Jeff Caplan
DALLAS -- His infamous one-point, one-rebound, one-assist game against the Los Angeles Lakers last week earned him boos from the home crowd and drastically diminished playing time since, but Lamar Odom said Monday that Dallas Mavericks fans are misreading him if they believe he doesn't want to play for their team.
He said that getting booed last Wednesday was "a little confusing and a little hurtful," and that he's been up front about his situation since the day he arrived in Dallas from the Lakers in a surprising December trade that amounted to a salary dump for Los Angeles.
"Well, I've never been booed in my life, so if it's to the point that I'm playing a basketball game at home and I'm getting booed then I would say, no disrespect, but maybe I think people took things the wrong way," Odom said after Monday's practice at the American Airlines Center. "I admitted I was out of shape for different reasons when I came into camp. I admitted what I had been through; I was honest about how my summer went, how I almost left the game with everything I went through, and I think people just took it the wrong way, like I had a reason not to be here or if I didn't want to be here.
"I think people took that the wrong way and the next thing I know I'm trying to come out of a slump and I check into a game and I'm getting booed. I'm not really used to that."
Odom will be back in front of the home crowd for the first time since the Lakers game Tuesday night when the Mavs play the Houston Rockets.
Odom's most recent downturn with the Mavs includes last season's Sixth Man of the Year looking totally lost against his old team in recording one point, one rebound and one assist in 24 minutes, then being benched for the entirety of Friday night's loss at San Antonio. Then followed a scoreless, two-rebound effort in just 13 minutes during Saturday's 101-99 overtime win at Houston.
Prior to that game, Odom had a one-on-one talk in the locker room with owner Mark Cuban while most of the team huddled around the television to catch a few minutes of March Madness.
"It was good. It's always good to talk man-to-man," Odom said. "He is very close to the team so obviously you can see he gives 100 percent, so any time that an issue comes up to be able to speak to the owner is a pretty big deal. I commend him for that."
It was just less than a month ago when Odom, his agent Jeff Schwartz and Cuban huddled at the W Hotel in Dallas while the Mavs were getting thumped in Memphis by the Grizzlies. That meeting occurred at the tail end of Odom's 10-day personal leave, apparently to care for his ailing father.
"He's just got to play hard. If he plays hard, good things will happen," Cuban said Saturday night after talking with Odom.
After an encouraging start to his return, Odom's play flattened and recently he has seemed to be more disengaged. That has led to the home fans losing patience and booing him.
"It's part of the game, I understand, but usually it happens on the road," Odom said. "I've always had a lot of pride to play for the name on the back of my jersey. I've always been more prideful to play for the name that's on the front of my jersey, whether it be USA or whether it be Mavericks or the other team where I came from, I've always had a lot of pride, so it was a little confusing and a little hurtful, but it's the sports world so I understand. We're in a business that it's all about what have you done lately or last game. It's a part of it."
Odom, averaging drastic career lows with 6.8 points and 4.3 rebounds, said the boos hurt more than made him angry.
"No, I would say confused. I wouldn't say angry because there are a lot of sides to Lamar Odom," Odom said. "Sportsman is one of them. I'm a father, a husband, someone's son, someone's cousin, so there's a lot of roles I have to play in life and basketball is just one of them, so I can't let it get me angry because I have a lot of other roles to fulfill."
The Mavs are eager, even desperate, for one of the roles to become a solid contributor in the final month of the season and into the postseason. But, Odom's trending in the wrong direction.
Since scoring 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting at Phoenix on March 8, Odom has scored 23 total points in his last eight games played, shooting 9-for-42 from the field. He's made more than one basket in just one of his last seven games.
The DNP, a decision by coach Rick Carlisle, from Friday night's game at division-rival San Antonio, in which Dallas was destroyed on the boards and routed 104-87, marked the first of Odom's 13-year career.
"He's just got to hang in there and keep playing," Carlisle said. "We're going to be behind him. We've got to have everybody sticking with it. He's an important player for us."
With injured guard Delonte West expected to return to the lineup soon, perhaps this week, the question has been raised if Odom will be squeezed out of the lineup. West will fortify the backcourt rotation and small forward Shawn Marion, who has defended guards during West's absence, could play additional minutes at power forward behind Dirk Nowitzki as he did during last season's championship run.
Odom, once again, preached patience with 16 games left in the regular season.
"I can't get it back in one play," he said. "It might take more than one game. I just have to go out there and just find my game."
ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon contributed to this report.