DALLAS -- With Monday night's 93-87 win over the Phoenix Suns, the Dallas Mavericks moved to 6-0 when either Jason Kidd or Dirk Nowitzki sit out. That's 54.5 percent of their wins when one of their two future Hall-of-Famers is wearing a suit -- with tie or otherwise.
There are reasons why the Mavs have had success, as opposed to last season when the team practically cratered after Nowitzki crumpled to the floor at Oklahoma City with a sprained right knee. Shawn Marion continues to play spectacularly. He tossed in four 3-pointers Monday and a season-high 29 points after posting a double-double in New Orleans.
The center tandem of Brendan Haywood and Ian Mahinmi was again impressive, combining for 27 points and 15 rebounds. Mahinmi finished one rebound shy of a double-double (17 points, nine boards). The defense, although coach Rick Carlisle pointed out lapses, held a franchise-record 15th consecutive opponent to under 100 points and to below 40 percent shooting for a seventh time, including all three games on this current win streak.
The main question of concern continues to revolve around the ongoing saga of Lamar Odom. At times, the smooth, 6-foot-10 forward looks like he's turning the corner, and other times not so much. Carlisle certainly wasn't thrilled with Odom's scoreless first half that also lagged on the defensive end. Carlisle showed him so by planting him on the bench for all but 9:55 of the first 24 minutes. Odom played fewer minutes, by far, than any other starter, plus two reserves.
Odom, who has struggled to get his mind right at the start of this whirlwind season, said it's his body that's now taking a toll on him.
"I've got aches in places I never had before," Odom said. "I got pains in places I never had before."
Asked if Carlisle made his displeasure clear to him, Odom answered: "Sometimes when you're hurting, sometimes a play happens or something, people mistake it for not playing hard, but you're hurting, you know, you're hurting. When you're hurting sometimes it takes you some time to get into the game, to get into the flow. I know what I'm doing, I know how my body feels. I know how to call on it, make it react and respond."
Odom's replacement, Brandan Wright, logged an energetic 8:35 playing in a makeshift lineup. He came up with five points and three rebounds during a stretch that helped Dallas gather some momentum and take a 49-46 halftime lead. Wright, though, wouldn't take off his warmups in the second half.
"Lamar got off to such a slow start in the first half that the lineup with [Brian] Cardinal and Wright and [Ian] Mahinmi has been a good lineup the last couple games, and their energy really got us back in the game and got us the lead," Carlisle said. "The second half, Lamar got off to a good start and, hey, he earned the right to go back in the game.
"And again," Carlisle continued, uninterrupted, "it's the whole accountability thing. You play well, you put it on the coach to get you back in there. You don't play well, your ass is going to be sitting."
To Odom's credit, he got back in and stayed in, playing 18:17 of the second half, more than any other Mavs player other than Jason Terry, who logged four seconds longer. He finished Monday's game with 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting (just 1-of-5 from the free throw line), three rebounds and team-high-tying five assists in 28 total minutes -- his second-longest stint of the season.
The start of the season has been an all-encompassing, well-chronicled struggle for Odom, from mentally adjusting to the trade and from a death to a close relative last summer, and physically to the taxing nature of the lockout-shortened season. At Monday's shootaround, he was asked if he's running more -- and tiring more -- in the Mavs' system than in the Lakers' triangle, half-court offensive system.
"Ask my feet," Odom said.
After Odom undressed, bent down and grasped the tops of his feet, both of which sported large square bandages.
"I've learned in this league, you don't have to finish games the way you start them. That's the beautiful thing about basketball," Odom said, going into an explanation of how he stuck it out against the Suns. "Just try to stay focused and going after it, going after it, going after it until I can involve myself in the game. Just keep playing and not getting down."
And so the Lamar Odom saga continues ...