Lamar Odom and NBA risk
Will forward's Dallas disappearing act scare away other teams?
Here's the question, playing it forward: Is he worth it? Not "was." We already know the answer to that.
Did Lamar Odom play himself out of the NBA? Depending on the needs and/or desperation of teams that don't win the championship, Odom may be the biggest offseason gamble no team wants to take.
He may bring emotional baggage that's too much to carry and psychological drama that's too much to inherit. The Dallas Experiment exposed to the world a downside of Odom that no one thought existed, at least, not anymore.
He's had minimal issues in the past. Nothing big, nothing like this, nothing that prospective employers would hold against him the way they might now that they've seen what having him on their team could lead to.
We've seen this before. Randy Moss comes to mind. A player who doesn't go rogue but goes malcontent; a player who just straight checks out on the team and his teammates for whatever reason. Reasons often unknown and undiagnosed.
Convectional wisdom (all that heated rhetoric) says that this is it for Odom. No team is going to invest in or depend on him next season or any season beyond knowing -- even if he does D-League or FIBA-like stints to redeem himself -- that he could disappear.
Conventional wisdom says different. If we slow down and look deeper into Odom's immediate future, we can see that there's probable cause to think that acting like being a professional basketball player or playing professional basketball was no longer a priority won't seal his fate.
The majority of the teams in the NBA probably won't touch him at his current pay after this performance. They won't look at this season as an anomaly; they'll be concerned that this might be his new constant. But all Odom is looking for is one team. Just one. To take a chance on him.
And more than likely, there will be a team that will. Preferably to Odom -- I'm guessing -- one of the teams representing L.A.
If we can read anything into the photo of Odom leaving the Mavs facility wearing his Lakers championship T-shirt, that part of him never left. It didn't make the trip with him to Dallas.
If neither team in L.A. wins the title this season, it makes sense for either one to take the risk in bringing Odom back home to play for one of them by the time next season starts. Michael Jones at Yahoo! Sports laid out the reasons for the Lakers to patch up their relationship with him, presuming he comes back as the player who was NBA Sixth Man of the Year.
The Clippers, meanwhile, need someone with Odom's size, scoring ability and in-game wisdom coming off the bench behind Blake Griffin to make their roster impossible to defend and beat in a seven-game series. Odom could provide the veteran bookend to Chauncey Billups on a championship-contending team. Especially if his relationship with the Lakers is irreconcilable.
And if he gets into a mindset to play basketball no matter what, he'll have opportunities elsewhere, too. The general consensus among NBA executives I asked was that Odom will "easily" get a shot with another team and might get more offers for a trade than any other player in the offseason.
Lloyd Walton, former player and career counselor at the National Basketball Players Association, said he thinks Odom is likely to bounce back.
"You have to look at his entire career before you can say something like [one bad season will be held against Odom]," he said. "He doesn't have a history of having seasons like this; he doesn't have a list of coaches who he's played for or teammates that are going to say anything bad or negative about him. It was just one of those situations that didn't work out. Most teams will understand that."
There's an upside to everything. Moss, because of his supreme talent, has been given another chance to unwrong his wrongs with the San Francisco 49ers. If he balls like he's shown he can in the past, the risk the Niners took on him this offseason will be worth it. A low-risk Odom contract could pay off like the deal the Bulls made for Dennis Rodman in 1995. Or it could fail like the Lakers' signing of Rodman in 1999.
Of course, there's one team that will have no interest. Three weeks before he decided it was time to part ways with Odom, Mavs owner Mark Cuban wrote this in his blog:
Let me make this as clear as possible.
1. When you work hard at something you become good at it.
2. When you become good at doing something, you will enjoy it more.
3. When you enjoy doing something, there is a very good chance you will become passionate or more passionate about it.
4. When you are good at something, passionate and work even harder to excel and be the best at it, good things happen.
Don't follow your passions, follow your effort. It will lead you to your passions and to success, however you define it.
Think he wasn't thinking about Odom when he wrote that?
Effort is cream. It rules everything. It's the difference between a one-time all-rookie team player with a sixth man of the year award and two championship rings and an ultra-gifted, 6-foot-10, 32-year-old brotha with his own reality show on E! and nowhere to play. With no NBA team to call home.
It's going to be extremely interesting to see who takes the bait, hoping that the former Odom -- and not the present one -- will appear the next time he signs his name to a contract.
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