Sports

As stretch run nears, Odom still lost in transition to Mavericks

DALLAS -- Lamar Odom doesn't believe in living in the past.

Too many personal tragedies would weigh him down. Too many heartbreaks would break his heart all over again.

Too many misfortunes would make him think "why him" all over again, and force him into re-living that same nightmare again and again and again.

So, when asked about playing his former team -- the Los Angeles Lakers -- at 8:30 tonight at American Airlines Center, Odom shrugged and brushed aside the question so swiftly it was as though he were stretching his hands outwardly to swipe a rebound.

"Of course it feels odd going against them -- a little bit," Odom finally said. "But going against them is going to happen.

"It's part of what we talked about the business of the NBA. That's the way it goes."

Well, Odom's business on the court hasn't gone exactly how he envisioned since the Lakers traded him to the Dallas Mavericks on Dec. 10. He's struggled with his shot, struggled to fit in, and was once sent to coach Rick Carlisle's personal boot camp to see if that could get him jump-started.

However, during the past few weeks, Odom has been the beneficiary of some pretty positive remarks from Carlisle for his performances. The numbers don't show it in the stat sheet, but Carlisle insists there is a method to Odom's madness, and that his contributions have warranted a proverbial pat on the back from the Mavericks' coaching staff.

"I like his activity, his presence around the basket, and he's making plays," Carlisle said. "With [19] games left, the thing that I've continued to say to him is to just keep playing your game, keep playing your game, and it's going to continue to work itself in the right direction.

"He's just got to keep doing what he's doing."

Odom has been described as too aloof, or as a player who goes about his business in such a cavalier manner it's like he doesn't care about what he's doing. But Carlisle advises everyone not to dabble in perceptions.

Meanwhile, in the Mavericks' first trip to Los Angeles to play the Lakers on Jan. 16, the Lakers showed a brief highlight reel of Odom and the contributions he made while they captured back-to-back titles in 2009 and '10. Odom responded with 10 points and four rebounds.

However, Odom missed the first time the Lakers visited Dallas on Feb. 22 because he was away tending to personal business.

"I think the first time when you go back, that's tough," forward Dirk Nowitzki said. "Going to the arena where you played for so long, I think is more emotional than a road game.

"That first LA game when we were in LA, that was tough for him. He got a standing ovation, and that's an emotional moment, but at some point I think you've got to move on."

So much has been debated about Odom's departure from the Lakers that he can't recall whether he asked the Lakers to trade him or whether the Lakers sent him to the Mavericks without his request. Odom will admit to being upset when the Lakers tried to trade him to the New Orleans Hornets in December in a deal that was ultimately vetoed by NBA Commissioner David Stern.

The rest, Odom claims, is just one big blur.

"Everything's happened, and so much time has gone by, all I can do is just go out there and play the game," Odom said. "I don't really think about it much."

In other words, those seven years Odom spent with the Lakers are just a distant memory. If he's pained about having to pick up and leave the sunny California beaches for Dallas, he hasn't publicly stated his displeasure for North Texas.

"So much time has gone by, I'm trying not to harp on the past," Odom said. "All I can do is worry about the present.

"I can't really get caught up in what could have or should have. It is what it is."

Odom is averaging career lows of 7.1 points and 4.5 rebounds and is shooting 34.8 percent from the field, also a career low. Mavericks observers noted that his shot projects off his hands too straight -- like an arrow trying to reach its target -- and has a low percentage of going through the basket because of its low trajectory.

"I actually think his jumper has been looking good," Nowitzki said. "He's been getting it up more.

"I think at the beginning it was really flat, but the last couple of games and in practice he's been working on getting his legs in and getting the ball up. I really think he's going to be OK."

Meanwhile, Odom bristled when asked about the fact that since his shot isn't falling, at least he's able to contribute on the boards, where he snatched a season-high nine rebounds during Monday's 112-95 win over the Denver Nuggets.

"I love to play the whole game of basketball," Odom said. "Defend, rebound, block a shot or two, contest the basketball, just make plays -- defensive plays or offensive plays.

"I just need to continue to keep playing."

Which is precisely what Carlisle suggested.

Dwain Price, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @DwainPrice

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