For Lamar Odom, things can’t get much worse. Maybe that’s the positive message he needs to embrace so he can regain his confidence. Last night’s one point performance against his former team marked another troublesome day for Odom, whose fallen from grace so dramatically that the fans in Dallas boo him with authority. It’s become obvious that he’s in his own head. Whatever mental issues Odom’s experiencing, they’re making him think, and basketball players can’t afford to think. It’s that hesitation that’s cut Odom’s career averages in scoring and rebounding in half this season, he’s become a liability. When the ball is in his hands, I can’t watch. He looks like the friend that decided to play in the pick-up game, and is just trying to not mess up, and for Odom even that isn’t working.
The question is, for a Dallas team that’s in the playoff picture but struggling, how long do you let Odom find his identity on the team? Clearly there are personal issues he must work out, and that sort of self-discovery is larger than basketball, but can the Mavericks afford to stick with an ailing player? Owner Mark Cuban has had said he fully supports Odom. The affirmation was necessary after players voiced displeasure at a 10-day personal leave Odom took when his father, who has battled heroin addiction throughout his life, fell ill. It was a long break, but nobody wants to be the bad guy in this situation. Nobody wants to make Lamar’s situation anymore awful than it already is. However, for the Mavericks, who are currently 6th in the Western Conference standings, the painfully awkward moment may come where Odom will be featured even less than his 21 minutes per game average this season. He may never find his niche in Dallas. For now, the Mavs will stick with Odom and hope he can return to his dangerous self. The reward is a 14-point and 9 rebound big man who can make the outside shot. The risk is teammate tension, extraordinarily unproductive minutes, and bringing down the locker room. Who knows if Lamar Odom will show up in the postseason, but it’s certainly a compelling story that is beginning to transcend sports.