UPDATE: 11:21 A.M. ET
Just hours away from reporting to the Texas Legends for their game against the Austin Toros, ESPN sources claim that Lamar Odom will instead report directly to the Dallas Mavericks to help them battle the Utah Jazz tonight.
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The Dallas Mavericks aren’t happy with Lamar Odom‘s performance, so they are transferring him to the NBA Developmental League (aka the D-League) to play for the Texas Legends, according to TMZ.
On Friday, the news broke that Odom was being “dropped” to the D-League in order to “get his legs back under him,” but then later that day, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban denied Odom was being dropped but did admit that the embattled forward would be transferred so that he could “get his timing back.”
While no one is exempt from life’s struggles, Odom had particularly difficult challenges from the beginning. Born in Queens, N.Y., to a father who was a heroin addict, Odom lost his mother, Cathy Mercer, to colon cancer at the tender age of 12. Afterward, his grandmother Mildred Mercer would raise him.
Yet, his future beamed bright.
Not too long after being named the Player of the Year by Parade Magazine in 1997, Odom was swiftly drafted in to the NBA during his freshman year at the University of Rhode Island and became the fourth-draft pick for the LA Clippers.
After having a marijuana scandal in 2001, Odom was traded to the Miami Heat, where he was said to have a “solid season.” But just a few years later, death would visit him again. In 2004, once Odom was traded to the LA Lakers, his grandmother would die. Two years later, his third child Jayden, which he had with former girlfriend Liza Morales, would die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) after six months.
While Odom would marry reality TV star Khloe Kardashian in 2009 to much fanfare, another two deaths would occur back to back in 2011: Odom’s 24-year-old cousin was murdered in New York, and a day after his cousin’s funeral, his SUV would hit a motorcyclist, killing 15-year-old pedestrian Awsaf Alvi Islam, as he sat in the passenger seat.
At the time, Odom told the LA Times that the deaths were devastating:
“Death always seems to be around me,” Odom said in a low tone. “I’ve been burying people for a long time. When I had to bury my child, I probably didn’t start grieving until a year and a half later.
“I think the effects of seeing [my cousin] die and then watching this kid die, it beat me down. I consider myself a little weak. I thought I was breaking down mentally. I’m doing a lot of reflecting.”
As if that wasn’t enough, barely four months later, Odom would be “shocked” and “surprised” to learn that the Lakers were trying to trade him to the New Orleans Hornets in a deal that was eventually vetoed by the NBA. A week later, he would be traded to the Mavericks.
Barring his exceptional performance against the Utah Jazz in January, Odom has been underperforming on his new team. Last December, he averaged 4.3 baskets a game. In January, he more than doubled his baskets, among other stats, by averaging 8.8 baskets a game, but by February, he slumped down to 6.9 baskets a game, validating Cuban’s decision to transfer Odom to the D-league.
And while some sympathize with Odom’s series of unfortunate events, others are not so kind. ESPN’s J.A. Adande wrote a scathing article, declaring that the Lakers were wise to trade Odom. Analyzing Odom’s record, Adande says that Odom has actually been underperforming for years:
There was outrage throughout Lakerland, emanating from the players in the practice facility and spreading outward. How could the Lakers give up a key part of their back-to-back championship runs…and send him to the team that ousted them from the playoffs last year?
It turns out just about anything would be better than watching him slip so drastically on their account. He has gone from averaging 14.4 points and 8.6 rebounds in 2010-11 to 7.7 and 4.5. His shooting is down to 36%. He worked his way down the bench (Kobe Bryant jokingly referred to Odom as “the best eighth man in the NBA this year” before the Lakers played Dallas last week) and now has wound up down in the D-League.
More to the point, Adande says:
This is what the Lakers must have seen coming. They’d been around him enough to gauge his moods, and they saw the toll of an off-season in which he attended the funeral of a slain cousin and then was a passenger in a car involved in a traffic accident that wound up fatally injuring a pedestrian. It was a particularly troubling time even in a life that had been filled with loss, from his mother to his infant son. In the summer he had told the Los Angeles Times he ‘thought [he] was breaking down mentally.’
Perhaps. But Odom has been losing loved ones for years too. How can anyone ignore that Odom has lost 4 loved ones all before the age of 32: a Mother, a grandmother, a cousin, a baby son. Would you be able to “perform” at work?
Odom’s life has been punctuated with many challenges … challenges that most people twice his age are just starting (burying a parent) or never (burying a child) experience. We all struggle to clear many of life’s hurdles; sometimes we succeed, many times we aren’t so lucky. Time will tell, if Odom can regroup and persevere. I’m rooting for him.