Lamar Odom still wonders why
Reporting from Dallas -- The half-eaten gourmet omelet sits idly next to the ignored biscuits and potatoes. It’s obvious some of this Lakers stuff still bothers Lamar Odom.
The popular Lakers forward became the former Lakers forward last month, a turbulent time that had him running the scale of emotions in a breakfast interview Saturday with The Times.
He was involved in the most awkward trade veto in NBA history when Commissioner David Stern blocked the deal that would have sent Odom to New Orleans, Pau Gasol to Houston and Chris Paul to the Lakers.
He still has some questions for the Lakers, who play the Mavericks on Monday at Staples Center.
“For them just to [try to] trade me without communicating, it made me start to ask myself questions like ‘Why would they do something like that?’ ” said Odom, who found out he was in the attempted Paul trade from a Times reporter. “It hurt my feelings. Why would they choose to go that route? My father lives in California and I take care of my dad. They know about my family situation, everything about me, everything about Lamar.
“It was impossible for me not to take it personally. When I spoke to one of the representatives for the Lakers, the first thing he said was ‘Don’t take it personally.’ That means it’s personal if that’s the first thing someone says to you.”
Odom was so stunned to be in the deal that he skipped the first two days of Lakers training camp, then asked to be traded and was immediately dealt to Dallas for a future first-round pick.
He wonders about his role in reality TV shows with his wife, Khloe Kardashian, and his increasing off-court profile.
“Were those the reasons I got traded? Because I don’t know what I did,” he said, again referring to the New Orleans plan. “I never was told ‘This is why they’re doing it.’ I was told from the guy that represents me, who is good at what he does, that it’s a straight money thing. They just wanted to get rid of money. I thought we had established the type of relationship that if that was the case, they’d just tell me.”
The Lakers wanted Paul for his dynamic ability but also would have shed $41 million in salary and luxury taxes over two seasons if the trade had been approved. The Lakers declined to comment for this story.
Odom, 32, couldn’t care less about the money-saving angle for a team that employed him for seven seasons.
“The day you get traded, you walk into the team’s office and you see people walking around and they’re acting like your name is Lazarus instead of Lamar,” he said. “You’re looking to get an insight into somebody and they’re eating food and stuffing their mouth and saying hello and goodbye at the same time. They won’t even look you in your eye. There was a lot of things that some people in business would consider cowardly.”
He still misses the fans, the lifestyle of being a regular with the Lakers.
“The crowd, I consider them my friend,” he said, taking off a pair of sunglasses halfway through the interview and touching the corners of his eyes. “The energy that was passed from them to me always made everything feel all right. My interaction with the crowd, when Jack [Nicholson] started a chant, you’re communicating with your eyes or verbally with these people that I have all their DVDs and see their Oscar-winning performances.
“To feel them root for you because they like you and see you evolve into a man and someone who’s consistently putting it out for them, it’s awesome. It’s the best feeling in the world as far as basketball is concerned.”
He won championships with the Lakers in 2009 and 2010 and added his most notable personal achievement in 2011 — the NBA sixth man of the year award.
He hasn’t been effective in his first 13 games with Dallas, averaging 6.8 points and five rebounds and shooting 31.2%.
He appears to be missing the triangle offense, especially after being absent for most of the Mavericks’ training camp and still adjusting to the thick playbook of Coach Rick Carlisle.
In many ways, this isn’t his town.
His jersey isn’t sold at the Mavericks’ arena. When he reenters the game in the third quarter of a rout against Milwaukee, only one voice can be heard.
“Let’s go, Lamar,” was a fan’s welcome, a little more demanding than delighted, definitely not the adulation Odom received in Los Angeles whenever he entered.
There were plenty of fans’ homemade signs for Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry and Shawn Marion and even one for newcomer Delonte West (“West Is Best!”).
There were none for Odom. There was only a “We Love Khloe” sign being waved by a fan.
“Basketball-wise, it’s been humbling because I was so unprepared for a trade,” Odom said. “I wasn’t ready to go one on one yet. [Mavericks fans] are looking at me as the guy that played for the Lakers. That’s who I am. The guy that played for the enemy that does reality shows that’s married to Khloe. It’s a different vibe. And me getting off to a slow start, people are like, ‘I thought he was [good]. Is that it?’ ”
TNT analyst Charles Barkley went so far as to say Odom looked “mentally out of it.”
“It’s like he’s not there right now,” Barkley told a Dallas radio station last week. “He’s a real good player, but it seems like he went through a divorce. He’s not even close to being the same guy.”
One fairly important person didn’t mind Odom’s start.
“I could care less what Lamar’s numbers are as long as he’s creating matchup problems, letting us rest Dirk and … creating energy,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said. “That’s all that really matters.”
When Odom was sent to Dallas, former Lakers coach Phil Jackson called to say, “Get yourself together and defend your name,” Odom said.
Odom also heard from Kobe Bryant, who was undeniably annoyed by the trade.
“Kobe just told me to keep doing what I do,” he said. “We went through battles together. We became brothers. Got beat up, got beat. It built character.”
Odom felt knocked down by the nixed Paul trade. He got beat up. Now comes the character-building part, he hopes.
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