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.
CP3 will be playing basketball in Los Angeles for the foreseeable future, however not for the Lakers, but for that other team in LA. The New Orleans Hornets traded Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night. The Clippers sent guard Eric Gordon, center Chris Kaman, forward Al-Farouq Aminu and Minnesota’s unprotected 2012 first-round pick to the Hornets. The Clippers will also receive two future second-round picks. The deal required the approval of NBA commissioner David Stern, who blocked a 3-team trade last week between the Lakers, Rockets and Hornets that would have sent Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers. But Paul will now be teaming up with Blake Griffin, making the Clippers arguably the new #1 team in LA. To no ones surprise, this has left people in Laker Land feeling pretty bitter.
So what now for the Lakers? With Paul now off the table, they are pretty much out of options when it comes to making a trade. Also on Wednesday the Orlando Magic pulled Dwight Howard off the trading block, leaving no marquee players left on the market. Stern denying the Lakers of Paul effectively threw them under the bus, indirectly. Indications were that he didn’t want to make them better, and now they’re worse. Now without Lamar Odom (traded to the Dallas Mavericks) and having high expectations as always, new coach Mike Brown may possibly have one of the most undesired jobs in the NBA. With the season only 10 days away, look forward to seeing the exciting duo of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin together, and mark your calendar for January 14th when the new look Clippers take on the lowly Lakers!
The NBA has taken several unpredictable turns this off-season. The most recent of which was vetoing a trade that would send Chris Paul to the Lakers in a 3-way trade that would send Pau Gasol to Houston and Lamar Odom to New Orleans. The deal appeared to be a solid settle for league-owned New Orleans, who would inevitably lose Paul to free agency and have nothing to show for it. The implication of the trade was that the Lakers would trade Andrew Bynum for Dwight Howard to form a big 3 of Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, and Dwight Howard. Just two days ago I wrote that the league was veering in the direction of having an upper elite of “super-teams.” Stern’s rejection of the trade changes the course. After fielding petty complaints from jealous owners, he claimed that Chris Paul staying in a Hornets jersey was the best place to be. Essentially, the Lakers would be a powerhouse, and Stern realized that this would’ve been yet another giant step in the area of superstar-ridden lineups. The commissioner can cite whatever reasons he desires, but the truth is he caved into complaints and whispers about the demise of small-market teams because of trades like these. In the long run, this could sting the Hornets. They would’ve received more than fair compensation for Paul. Now, they must wait.
Stern can’t be this pathetic. He looks like a little child, finding a loophole in a board game to swing the victory his way. His grimy grin always had a shadow of contempt, but it’s never been more visible than now. If he was a true commissioner, and had the best interest of the NBA in his mind, he would allow the league to take its natural path. The idea of seeing Kobe Bryant surrounded by two of the great players in the game is thrilling. The new NBA is never going to be the NFL. Players want the attention, and music video-esc tone to their lives. They want big cities that treat them like demigods. Stern resists this glamorous, fast-paced image, but it just may be the easiest way for the NBA to stay entertaining.
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