Lakers have trouble reaching Lamar Odom
The Lakers' locker room appears less jovial. The team's bench remains at worst unproductive and at best inconsistent. The reality television show cameras no longer are present.
But there is another tangible reminder of how much life has changed for the Lakers without Lamar Odom: Nearly all of the phone calls that Pau Gasol and Luke Walton have made to Odom lately have gone unanswered.
"He doesn't answer his phone," Walton said. "His voicemail is always full."
Odom's relationship with the Lakers organization became strained after the team included him in a three-team trade centered around Chris Paul, a move the NBA rejected. So much so that the Lakers accommodated Odom's request for a trade and sent him to the Dallas Mavericks. But that hardly applies to Odom's former teammates, who look forward to hosting the Mavericks on Monday at Staples Center.
The game marks the first time this season that the Lakers will face the team that swept them in the Western Conference semifinals last season, and it also will be the first time at least for some of the Lakers players that they have talked to Odom for a while.
Walton made it clear, however, that Odom often didn't answer his phone during his seven-year career with the Lakers (2004-11), and said he talked at length with Odom after the trade about "life." Pau Gasol said Odom didn't return a Twitter message this summer after the former Lakers forward told him he might consider playing in Europe after this season.
So it's a tad presumptuous to cite Odom's frustration with the Lakers, his struggles in Dallas or his consideration of a seasonlong sabbatical as reasons he hasn't stayed in touch with his former Lakers teammates. But it hammers home just how different life has been for the Lakers without Odom.
"Hopefully I'll see him tomorrow and have a chance to talk to him directly and personally," Gasol said. "I look forward to it. He's a player that's been a part of great things here. I was happy to be his teammate and enjoyed every minute I was able to play with him. He was an unselfish and versatile guy and he sacrificed himself for the good of the team. He's the kind of a player you'd like to have on your side."
The Mavericks have yet to reap those benefits, as Odom has averaged 6.8 points and 5.0 rebounds in a career-low 20.0 minutes. Odom conceded that his wife, Khloe Kardashian, talked him out of taking a season off despite a tumultuous off-season. Days after his 24-year-old cousin was murdered in July, Odom was a passenger in a car that collided with a motorcycle, an accident that left a teenage pedestrian dead.
Walton remains confident that Odom will adjust once he gets in shape. Walton saw firsthand the value Odom brought to the Lakers with his versatility, court presence and size. That absence has largely contributed to the Lakers bench averaging a league-worst 21.3 points per game. But that's not the only reason the Lakers miss Odom, have tried to reach out him and look forward to seeing him Monday at Staples Center.
"We miss his off-the-court stuff just as much as on the court," Walton said. He's just one of the guys that keeps stuff light all the time and makes it fun to come to work."
-- Mark Medina
Email the Lakers blog at firstname.lastname@example.org