Lamar Odom coming home

Lamar Odom is coming home.

We like to think that shouldn't matter when a professional athlete is being paid close to $9 million a year to play a game most of us would play for free.

But we also like to think a place and a city mean something to a professional athlete even though he's being paid close to $9 million a year to play a game most of us would play for free.

We want pro athletes to care about fans but block out everything else once they step on the court. We want, we want, we want.

There are a lot of fans in Dallas who will read this post and cringe at the idea that anyone would feel sorry for Odom after the way he bailed on the Mavericks last season, despite the organization doing everything it could to make him feel wanted.

I get all that. But I also get Odom, having been around him in Los Angeles for most of his professional career.

The man cares. He's sensitive. He gets attached and he gets hurt. Then he disappears and withdraws. It was unprofessional to behave that way toward the Mavericks and their fans, and they have every right to be upset with him.

But you cannot ignore the personal issues he dealt with last year, losing a close cousin over the summer, then being a passenger in a car that was involved in a crash that killed a teenage pedestrian while in New York for his cousin's funeral.

And you can't have it both ways in wanting a guy to connect to a city and a franchise, and then being upset when he does and has a hard time dealing with the rejection inherent in being traded.

Odom's heart never really left Los Angeles. Now he'll be back, albeit with the Clippers instead of his beloved Lakers.

He has some amends to make with the Clippers, too. His exit to Miami in 2003-04 was ugly as he publicly implored the Clippers not to match the offer sheet he signed with the Heat and insulted the Clippers' franchise in doing so.

Agreeing to bring him back says a lot about the Clippers' commitment to winning. And yes, it says something about much-maligned owner Donald Sterling.

The Clippers need a versatile, offensively talented forward such as Odom to complement Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, and they didn't let bad blood from nearly a decade ago get in the way of it.

For a franchise currently operating with an ad hoc front office after the abrupt departure of former GM Neil Olshey, it was a nice statement to make.

But in the end, what matters is that Lamar Odom is coming home. Where his heart never left.