The Los Angeles Lakers apparently broke Lamar Odom's heart and crushed his spirit when they elected to trade him last December. The deal wasn't approved, and the NBA's reigning Sixth Man of the Year stayed in Hollywood momentarily. But the relationship was fractured, the damage was irreparable and the Lakers shipped him to the defending-champion Dallas Mavericks.
Odom should have thrived with the Mavericks, but he pouted instead. His indifference finally led owner Mark Cuban to confront Odom in the locker room last weekend. Shortly thereafter, Dallas told him to stay home for the rest of the season.
"Everybody goes through ups and downs," Cuban told ESPNDallas.com on Tuesday. "Every player does. We tried to put him in a position to succeed … And I just asked him, does he want to go for it or not? Is he in or is he out? I think he thought we were playing poker. I just didn't get a commitment. And that was the end."
Maybe it was the string of adversities he's faced over the years. Maybe it was the reality show with his wife, Khloe Kardashian. Maybe he just didn't want to play in Texas with one of the Lakers' archrivals. Whatever the case, Odom left his professionalism in Los Angeles and carved a new reputation in Dallas, marked by tardiness, sulking and lack of effort.
"I always pull for the players, but the fact that they've got to pay him I think is a joke," broadcaster Charles Barkley said on a Dallas radio show. "I like Lamar as a person, but I'm disappointed about everything that happened in Dallas. And it's a shame that the Mavs got to pay him, to be honest with you, because he doesn't deserve to get paid for what he put out there this year. He doesn't deserve it, plain and simple."
Odom should have looked up a quote from NBA great Julius Erving, who once broke it down perfectly. According to the late Pulitzer Prize-winning writer David Halberstam, Erving said that "being a professional is doing the things you love to do on the days you don't feel like doing them."
If a recent report is accurate and Odom is depressed, he should take steps to get help. Whether he just doesn't feel good or it's something more serious, Odom's career doesn't have to suffer. He doesn't have to put his livelihood in jeopardy, causing teams to wonder if he's worth the trouble.
His statistics with the Mavs — career lows of 6.6 points and 4.2 rebounds per game — aren't a true reflection of his talent. He averaged 14.6 points and 8.9 rebounds in 12 NBA seasons prior to "joining" Dallas.
Odom needs to reclaim his heart and recapture his love for the game next season. Or at least play hard even when he doesn't feel like it. He disgraces himself with anything less.