Delonte West eats with lions at the zoo?

DALLAS -- The good thing is animals don't boo.

Mavericks forward Lamar Odom joined guard Delonte West on Monday afternoon at the Dallas Zoo with 30 Metroplex elementary and middle school students who were selected as Mavs Academic All-Stars for their hard work and exceptional grades in the classroom.

The two Mavs sat with the students during a 30-minute conservation program in which zoo specialists brought out various animals such as penguins, an alligator and a boa constrictor. Then they toured the zoo's impressive Giants of the Savannah exhibit, where they fed lettuce to giraffes.

Just a few hours earlier Monday afternoon, Odom spoke to the media after the Mavs' practice and said that boos during Wednesday's home game against the Lakers were "confusing" and "hurtful." He found the audience at the zoo to be a little less brash, although he wasn't particularly fond of the gator or the hefty snake.

"I kept my distance, but it was pretty cool," Odom said. "That’s what it’s all about, coming out here and getting to know your community. Of course, this is my first time out here. It’s my first year here in Dallas and just getting out, getting to know people is what it’s all about."

West seemed to thoroughly enjoy his first visit to the Dallas Zoo. His right hand was free of a bandage. The ring finger he gruesomely fractured Feb. 15 and needed surgery on a few days later remains a bit swollen and stiff, but he was more than ready to interact with the students and, well, the animals for that matter.

"Well, I think they noticed as soon as I came into the zoo my natural animal instinct, you know what I mean?" Delonte said, speaking of the actual animals. "I got a chance to eat with the lions, you know? They had Lamar playing with the penguins, but they needed me for the more animalistic-type of things, carnivore-type of things. So, I also had a chance to give birth to a baby cheetah today and I’m just overwhelmed with the experience to be amongst my own and my peers."

None of that is exactly true, but it did sound good. And West talking about Odom playing with a couple of pint-sized penguins while he tangled with meatier zoo endeavors was not an intentional attempt at a metaphor for the season.

West, 28, was quite engaged during the conservation program and he and Odom interacted with the attentive, young learners.

"It shows you the education system has definitely grown," West said. "They were right on. Every question that the specialists and professionals were asking they were right on. A couple of them took my answers. The kids were very intelligent and asking intelligent questions. I was very impressed."

West, who grew up in Washington D.C., was asked if he spent much time at the zoo as a youngster.

"I just ran out in the woods, whatever I could find take it home as a pet," West said, again stretching the boundaries of fact into pure fiction. "I had a pet raccoon once. No, I took my few field trips to the zoo, but like I said, I think we’re getting ready to go see some of the lions and gorillas, my own kind and hopefully we can have a nice bonding experience and they will accept me as the pack leader."

Although it is doubtful that West will be ready to return to the lineup Tuesday against the Houston Rockets, it is presumed that he will be in the building and not the new king of a pride.