Odom has change of heart, solid game for Dallas Mavericks

DALLAS -- Troubled forward Lamar Odom said he finally has his personal problems in order and he is ready for a fresh start with the Dallas Mavericks.

Odom certainly looked like it in his return to the court Saturday night after a 10-day absence, bypassing a planned stint in the D-League because his team needed him against the Utah Jazz.

Odom scored nine points, pulled down five rebounds, had three assists and recorded three blocked shots in his most energetic game of the season, helping the Mavericks end a four-game losing streak with a 102-96 victory at American Airlines Center.

He told his teammates in a speech before the game that he needed them as much as they needed him and asked them to be patient with him.

He didn't go into the personal problems that kept him away from the team. But he said everything is fixed and asked the Mavericks fans for patience.

"We've got a great group of guys," Odom said. "Before the game I let them know how much I need them. I'm fortunate to have a group of guys like this. Sometimes ... people don't understand what you are going through. Sometimes [you have] to get things in order to ... do what you can do at a high level, consistently or passionately."

Odom said he plans to work his way back into his teammates' good graces by working hard and playing hard.

He took the first step Saturday night. His teammates welcomed his effort and his address, and they plan to be there for him.

"We are here for him," guard Jason Terry said. "He said he needs us as much as we need him. This was a new start and rebirth for him. The season starts now. His presence gives us a big advantage and solidifies our bench."

Coach Rick Carlisle had similar thoughts about Odom after his effort Saturday. He talked to him briefly before the game and told him what was expected of him.

"We need this from him every night," Carlisle said. "He played well. He played with authority. We haven't seen this from him. I told him he needs to keep doing it. It will take us to the next level."

It was certainly a far cry from Carlisle's attitude just 24 hours earlier when he acknowledged that the team, including owner Mark Cuban, was losing patience with Odom, whose effort and production have been a growing concern since he was traded to the Mavs from the Lakers before the season.

Odom missed the Feb. 22 game against the Lakers, supposedly because his father was gravely ill, but it was later reported that his father only had a stomach virus. And then instead of returning to the team after the All-Star break, Odom missed three more games.

Odom volunteered to play for the Texas Legends, the Mavericks' D-League team in Frisco, on Saturday to get in shape for his return.

But those plans changed when the Mavericks felt they needed him Saturday night.

The good news, Odom said, is this where he wants to be.

"Yes, I want to be here," Odom said. "I'm lucky and blessed to be able to play for a team like this."

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