Lamar Odom's tired act had to end

DALLAS -- Let's get one thing straight: Lamar Odom did not quit on the Dallas Mavericks. That would have required something resembling commitment from Odom in the first place.

That's apparently asking too much of a man making a salary of $8.9 million. That's why Odom is free to head back to his beloved Los Angeles to cash Mark Cuban's checks the rest of the season.

The Mavs and Odom are calling it a "mutual decision" to part ways. Of course, all indications were that Odom never wanted to be here in the first place despite whining his way out of L.A. after the Lakers dared to include him in the commissioner-vetoed deal that would have put Chris Paul in purple and gold.

From Cuban on down, the Mavs kept hoping that would change, wishing that a man with a dozen-year track record of being a good NBA player could actually muster enough pride to play hard for the defending NBA champions. They kept on coddling until they finally came to the obvious conclusion that they couldn't count on Odom while fighting for their playoff lives.

"It's like going to war with wet gunpowder," Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said.

Yeah, Odom infrequently fired, such as the night that he returned from his bizarre, self-imposed, 10-day midseason sabbatical by actually playing with energy in a win over the Utah Jazz, putting up a nine-point, five-rebound, three-block, three-assist line in 18 minutes and offering false hope that he might return to something close to his Sixth Man of the Year form from last season.

But Odom shot blanks on a regular basis -- as evidenced by his career lows in points (6.6 per game), rebounds (4.2), assists (1.7), shooting percentage (35.2) and effort (minimal) -- and then wondered why the home fans hurt his feelings by booing.

It's the last category, that intangible one, that caused the Mavs' brass to finally stop hoping and believing that Odom could contribute to their repeat quest. Khloe's little Lam Lam will go down as one of the biggest disgraces in Dallas sports history because he wouldn't even do the simplest thing in sports: play hard.

"Therein lies the decision," said Nelson, who still went out of his way Monday to offer Odom's personal issues as an excuse.

Odom's refusal to do the bare minimum on a regular basis -- or maybe inability, if you give him the benefit of the doubt -- often sucked the life out of the Mavs. The saga of a moping reality-show star -- and at least one teammate wondered whether this was all scripted drama to boost E! ratings -- served as a pointless distraction.

No matter how much the Mavs hoped, Odom wasn't ever going to help them. He could only hurt them.

"It's just time to turn the page," coach Rick Carlisle said.

That's about all Carlisle had to say about Odom. Cuban had nothing to say at all, and none of the Mavs' players wanted to touch the toxic topic, with team leaders Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd sneaking out a side door to avoid the media after Monday's practice.

"He's not here anymore," Jason Terry said. "We won't know how much we miss him until the season's over, I guess."

That's not necessarily true. The most misleading statistic in basketball this season is the Mavs' 0-7 record without Odom, although Carlisle used that to attempt to illustrate Odom's importance to the team while the coach was in full coddle mode. (The fact Kidd or guard Delonte West missed all seven of those games might have something to do with the Mavs' winless record while Odom dealt with personal issues or tummy aches.)

It's not like sending the scapegoat home solves all the issues of a team that is a game below .500 since Feb. 1. Giving Brian Cardinal more minutes as a backup power forward isn't going to magically morph a team that ranks 23rd in points per possession into a good offensive team.

But maybe dumping Odom will give the Mavs, whose mental toughness would be dominating discussion of this team if there hadn't been a championship parade in downtown Dallas 10 months ago, a much-needed morale boost. This seems like a last-ditch effort to try to establish the kind of chemistry that was so critical to the Mavs' championship run but has been missing all season.

At least the Mavs can now be confident that everyone on their bench actually cares. At least Carlisle can reasonably expect any man he summons off the bench to play hard.

When that happened for Odom, it was cause for applause, which shows just how low the standards dropped for Lam Lam in Dallas. He couldn't even meet those, so the Mavs finally decided to move on, now hoping that it's better late than never.