Lamar Odom has 'mixed emotions' on playing the Lakers
As soon as he entered the Lakers' practice facility, Lamar Odom encountered reminders of how some things change and some things remain the same.
He enthusiastically made small-talk with a Lakers public relations official and team attendants, but said he intentionally avoided entering the facility where the Lakers' players normally enter. Odom appeared comfortable at a shoot-around on the Lakers' practice court, though he admits wears a Dallas Mavericks uniform has prompted adjustments. And while Odom seemed excited about making the U.S. Olympic team, overall he appeared more serious than jovial.
Odom conceded feeling conflicted about playing the Lakers on Monday night at Staples Center, a little more than a month after the Lakers traded him to the Dallas Mavericks.
"I don't know how I feel," Odom said. "Of course you have to play them. That's a good question. I have mixed emotions. Things move on. There's no hard feelings. It is what it is."
Odom also experienced a tumultuous summer that made him consider taking a sabbatical. On a visit to New York during which he attended a funeral for a cousin who was murdered, Odom was in the passenger seat of a car that accidentally struck and killed a pedestrian. He remains emotional regarding those circumstances.
"It's been a process," Odom said. "Time waits for no man. You have to put things behind you so you can move on and get better on and off the court."
Dallas Coach Rick Carlisle believes that has already taken place. Forget about Odom averaging only 6.8 points on 31% shooting, five rebounds and 1.4 assists in a career-low 20 minutes per game, Carlisle said he saw improvement in Odom's conditioning, the Mavericks' system and handling his frustrations in the last three games.
"Our first priority is to make sure he goes to the right locker room," Carlisle joked before turning serious. "His No. 1 job is to compete his butt off. We all got his back. He's a special guy. We love him. He has unique skills that very few players in this league have. Right now what we need from him is a high competitive level and to play his game. We're asking of that for everybody on our roster."
That's why Odom remains mindful of the emotions his return to L.A. might bring.
He delegated handing out tickets to his Kardhasian family in hopes to ensure stronger focus. He also maintained that "my body feels good" and "I'm going to play hard." Odom predicted L.A. fans "hopefully will be welcoming," but it's possible some might feel offended Odom took the Lakers' attempt to trade him so personally. Odom said he plans to meet up with former Laker teammates before the game and even talk with longtime Laker fan and actor Jack Nicholson. But he also admitted any post-game plans with any Lakers would will hinge on the game's outcome.
"You just have to move forward," Odom said.
We'll find out to what degree, if any, has Odom done that Monday night.
-- Mark Medina
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