And the saga took yet another twist Friday, with Odom prepared to join the team's developmental league affiliate in a surprising demotion. The forward is expected to miss his fifth straight game for the Mavericks on Saturday while tending to a personal matter.
The prolonged absence combined with Odom's lackluster play has the Mavericks brass losing patience with the talented reserve. Odom was acquired from the Los Angeles Lakers in the offseason after winning the Sixth Man of the Year award for his stellar play off the Lakers bench last season.
At the time, most NBA followers thought the Mavericks got a steal, only having to relinquish a trade exception for Odom. But since the acquisition, it has been far from a match made in heaven.
Odom initially expressed disappointment in having to leave Los Angeles, a city where he had spent the past seven seasons. The negative vibes carried onto the floor, as Odom has played some of the worst basketball of his career. The forward is shooting a porous 35.7 percent from the field, well below his previous career-worst of 41.9 percent shot during the 2001-02 season.
The poor statistical output is only one thing that has riled up Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle. Carlisle and some of the Mavericks veterans including Jason Kidd feel Odom has to prove that he can be trusted and relied upon by his teammates.
Odom was scheduled to return to the team after the All-Star break, but that time frame has shifted dramatically. Odom did not arrive in Dallas until Wednesday, and days later it appears Odom is still not ready to play for the Mavericks.
According to the Mavericks and Odom's agent, it was Odom's idea to suit up for the NBA D-League's Texas Legends for one game to get his feet back under him. The move is relatively unprecedented as veterans rarely make appearances in the D-League; in fact, the NBA Players' Association has to give approval for a team to send such an established veteran to the minor leagues. The Legends play a home game Saturday night in Frisco, a contest Odom is expected to play in.
Whenever Odom returns to the NBA, the spotlight will be even brighter. Carlisle says he wants to see Odom play "like his pants are on fire." Dallas currently holds the 5th seed in the Western Conference, and only five games separate them from the 13th spot, meaning a playoff appearance is not a lock.
After the Mavericks play the Utah Jazz on Saturday, the next chance for Odom to rejoin Dallas would be a road game in Oklahoma City on Monday against the conference-leading Thunder.
UPDATE: The Mavericks have elected to recall Odom for their game Saturday night against the Jazz. As a result, he will not make an appearance in the D-League.
Image Source: Twitter (@RealLamarOdom)