Last season was a frustrating one for every person associated with the Dallas Mavericks. There was the lockout, Tyson Chandler going to New York, an out of shape Dirk Nowitzki, and eventually losing to the Thunder in four playoff games in humiliating fashion. Oh, and there was the season long debacle involving one Lamar Joseph Odom.
You remember him, right? The Lakers sent him to Dallas in exchange for a future first round draft pick (now owned by the Thunder) and an $8.9 million trade exception. During 50 games with Dallas he posted new career lows across nearly every statistical measure: 6.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 35% shooting and only 20 minutes per game.
I remember being actively excited, because Lamar Odom had been a heck of a basketball player for the Lakers for a number of years and was the reigning sixth man of the year. He wasn't Tyson Chandler, but he was a brilliant basketball player who might help push the Mavericks towards position-less basketball. Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, and Lamar Odom had me drooling in anticipation. Pick and rolls for everyone, everywhere.
Then the games started. It took him until the fifth game of the season to shoot above 20% from the field. He was clearly out of shape but with the lockout schedule the only solution was for him to play his way into shape. He'd have flashes every now and again, where we saw the player he used to be. Then, just before the All Star break, he got permission from the team to go take care of his father who was supposedly on his death bed. The only problem was, his father wasn't dying.
After the All Star Break, Odom returned to Dallas and resumed his mediocre play. Then on March 23rd, Odom received his first ever "Did Not Play: Coach's Decision" in a double digit loss to the Spurs. From there, everything spiraled out of control quickly. The Khloe and Lamar show resumed on E! and it detailed just how unhappy Odom was about his trade to Dallas and clearly indicated how little respect he was giving his opportunity in Dallas, despite the semi-scripted nature of the show.
On April 7th, he had an argument with owner Mark Cuban during halftime; apparently Cuban challenged his commitment to the team and Lamar did not respond in a manner that befit a paid professional. Odom was sent home for the remainder of the season. ESPN's Tim MacMahon called him "one of the biggest disgraces in Dallas sports history". The players later voted to NOT give Lamar Odom any share of the player's playoff money, a move which spoke volumes about how his teammates felt about his effort despite playing 50 games that season.
There were questions as to whether fans being upset with Odom's clear lack of effort was even fair. He'd lost a cousin in the off season and a SUV he was riding in took the life of a teenage cyclist. There's also the question as to whether our anger was even fairly directed; after all, it was the front office who brought Odom to Dallas despite being aware of his mental frame of mine. We had also just seen first hand that previous spring the decline of Odom's physical skills as Peja Stojakovic was able to successfully guard Odom during the Mavericks four game sweep of the Lakers.
He returns to Dallas Tuesday evening as part of the high flying Los Angeles Clippers. He's been a middling performer at best, but with a team as stack as the Clippers they mainly need him to not be horrible. Chances are he won't see significant playing time, but as we all know this is a game the Mavericks cannot afford to lose (that basically applies to every game from here until the end of the season).
Few things get me more riled up that a professional athlete's entitlement. Odom had the chance to contribute to a special team, but chose to be part of the problem instead of part of the solution. Does it matter that "Lam Lam" is coming back to Dallas? Probably not. But a year later, I still get irrationally angry thinking about his time in a Maverick uniform.