I try my hardest to suppress the memory of Mitch Kupchak trading Lamar Odom away. I really do. But the pain never truly goes away.
My thought process remains the same as it always has: the reigning Sixth Man of the Year for a pick and a trade exception? Not even a solid role player? Did that really happen?
Three months after the fact, with Odom officially gone as well as Derek Fisher, this current Laker team only has four of the players that won a championship in 2010 (World Peace, Bryant, Gasol and Bynum).
Initially I felt gift wrapping Odom to Dallas would increase the Mavericks’ chances of repeating as NBA champions. In reality, the trade hasn’t helped either team, it’s benefited the 28 other ones.
Let’s start with the Mavericks, whose core players are even older than the Lakers. After winning it all in June, owner Mark Cuban made some questionable decisions in the off-season. The Mavs allowed Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler and JJ Barea to walk via free agency, replacing them with Vince Carter, Delonte West and Odom.
The moves left some people scratching their heads. After winning a championship, teams usually give the players a chance to repeat. However, Cuban and his executives elected to dump salary and gear up for the summer of Dwight Howard and Deron Williams instead. Unfortunately, all three of their new additions have missed time at one point or another during the season: Odom for “personal reasons”, Carter with a foot injury and West is currently still injured with a finger problem.
As a result the Mavericks’ productivity this season has taken a huge hit.
Injuries are a part of the grueling season but the manner in which Odom has missed games has caused fans to question his desire to play the game. Ever since being notified that he was part of the package the Lakers used to acquire Chris Paul before the trade was cancelled, Odom has been riding an emotional roller coaster, and he hasn’t really gotten off it.
He was crying on-air in an interview with Stephen A. Smith when asked about the trade. He reportedly demanded out of Los Angeles as he felt unwanted. In a Mavericks uniform he’s never really played like the Lamar Odom Laker fans have grown accustomed to over the past seven years. He is averaging 7.2 points and 4.4 rebounds per game – half of what he produced last season. It got so bad that Odom requested to be sent down to the D-League after his 10-day leave of absence from the team.
The man with a renowned sweet tooth is having a very bitter season.
Odom’s performance has been a reflection of the Mavericks season. As of last night, Dallas sits in sixth place with a record of 27-20 but it’s been far from pretty. Jason Terry, the Mavs’ spark-plug, was quoted as saying the Mavs needed to worry about making the playoffs before they even focus on repeating. Things turned ugly for Dallas two weeks ago on their stretch of back-to-back-back games. They lost all three games by a combined total of 39 points, and did I mention all three teams (the Warriors, Kings and the Suns) wouldn’t make the playoffs if it started today?
They’ve only recently picked up their form with four straight wins.
Odom’s current play may hurt the Mavericks but his departure has hurt the Lakers even more.
It’s been said over and over this season the Lakers’ biggest weaknesses lie in the three areas: the point guard, the small forward and the bench. They bandaged the point guard position with the acquisition of Ramon Sessions. And the two other areas of weakness used to be where Odom thrived, off the bench as a scoring small-forward. In case some of you have forgotten already, he won the sixth man of the year award last year.
Tonight’s matchup is obviously a stern test for both teams, who have both have been dismissed as contenders.
The Lakers need to get back on track after relinquishing leads in two winnable games.
The Mavericks need to prove to themselves they can beat the Lakers after losing the first two games in the season series (this time around Derek Fisher won’t be available to hit the game-winning three).
But most importantly, both the Mavericks and the Lakers need to get their respective seasons on track and escape the ghost of Lamar Odom that has been haunting them all year long.