DALLAS -- Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle revealed Saturday night that he had a frank discussion with Lamar Odom regarding his underwhelming performances and his commitment to the organization on the day before the veteran forward left the team.
"Look, it’s been a struggle, but at some point, you’ve got to lay the truth out there and it’s got to be clear to everybody what the expectation is," Carlisle said. "We had a meeting with Lamar before the All-Star break – it was actually the day before the Laker game – to really lay it out to him that for us, it’s not about his numbers. It’s about his energy, the engagement in the game and the full commitment. Because he’s a laid-back guy, because he’s a finesse player, there’s a lot of times that it appears that he’s not in the game."
It's unclear if there was any knowledge at the time that Odom would need to leave the team the next day with his former team, the Los Angeles Lakers, in town. It is known that nobody in the organization expected Odom to stay away for 10 days. Once he did leave the morning of the Lakers game, it was thought he would miss the one game and then return on Monday following All-Star weekend.
Odom finally returned to Dallas on Wednesday while the Mavs were losing at Memphis and Dirk Nowitzki was out of the game with a tight back.
Asked why he flew to Dallas and met with his agent Jeff Schwartz and Mavs owner Mark Cuban instead of joining the team in Memphis, Odom said, "We wanted to talk. We decided to do it here."
The resolution to ease Odom back was to allow him to first play a game for the Mavs' D-League affiliate, the Texas Legends, to get his legs back under him. That plan quickly changed Saturday morning when Dallas, needing to halt a four-game losing skid and dealing with injuries, decided it needed Odom more than the Legends did. When Odom arrived at the American Airlines Center on Saturday evening, Carlisle sensed he was in good spirits.
"When he walked in tonight, there was a bounce in his step that we hadn’t seen," Carlisle said. "Whatever he’s gone through has been tough. Now he’s back and we need him. His minutes are very valuable to our team."
Odom came through against the Jazz with a strong effort, particularly in the second half. He finished with nine points on 3-of-5 shooting, five rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots.
"There had been improvement from the first 15 to the second 15 games, but the energy fluctuated," Carlisle said. "We can’t have that. We I’ve got to let everybody know what the expectation is, including Lamar. He was great tonight. I was thoroughly impressed."