x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Lamar Odom is stuck in a funk at Dallas

He is far from being the best reserve in the NBA. He is far from being the best reserve in Dallas, writes Steve Dilbeck.

Lamar Odom, centre, averages 7.2 points per game since moving from Los Angeles Lakers. Danny Bollinger / Getty Images
Lamar Odom, centre, averages 7.2 points per game since moving from Los Angeles Lakers. Danny Bollinger / Getty Images

They handed him the award, and he was happy. Of the more than 200 NBA players who come off the bench, Lamar Odom was deemed the best. At age 31, his moment finally had arrived.

"This has been a long time coming," the genial Odom said then. "I just kept at it. At the end of the day, I'm blessed. Some people call it luck, I call it blessed."

The Sixth Man of the Year award was an important addition to his CV, which included championships in 2009 and 2010 with the Los Angeles Lakers.

In 2009, he had married the reality-TV star Khloe Kardashian. He was a respected, and now honoured, teammate. Life was about as good as he had ever known it.

Eleven months later, little happiness surrounds Odom. His skills have disappeared. He is no longer the unique, ball-handling, 6ft 10in forward. Every hint that he is escaping his season-long funk is followed by new steps backward.

Always emotionally fragile, Odom was devastated when the Lakers traded him to acquire Chris Paul last December. When the NBA vetoed the trade, Odom was nonetheless so distraught he did not come to practice. The Lakers said he asked to be traded, and they obliged, sending him to the Dallas Mavericks, the champions.

Where he has never been the same. Not even remotely. He is averaging 7.2 points and 4.4 rebounds per game - half of what he produced last season.

He is far from being the best reserve in the NBA. He is far from being the best reserve in Dallas.

Many believe he lost his passion for the game when the Lakers traded him. He disputes that. "If it wasn't still there, I wouldn't be playing," he said.

Little in Odom's life has been easy or routine. His mother died when he was 12. In 2001, he was suspended by the league for marijuana use. His grandmother, who raised him after the death of his mother, died in 2003. His six-month-old son, Jayden, died in the summer of 2006 of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Even last summer, death stalked him. He was a passenger in a vehicle taking him to a cousin's funeral when the car struck a motorcycle which in turn struck a 15-year-old pedestrian, killing him.

The Mavericks have been supportive through his struggles on the court, even when he left the team for four days at the end of February for "family" reasons. Mark Cuban, the Mavericks owner, said he is not concerned with Odom's focus.

Meanwhile, Odom hints at brilliance one night, only for it to vanish the next. He has not scored more than four points in his past five games. And he is no longer feeling happy or lucky.

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