In the fall, before the new CBA had been agreed to, I argued with Shoot-Hoops’ own Clint Peterson on the potential uses for the D-League. I was in favor of teams having the option to send down veteran players who were coming back from an injury, similar to the MLB model. Allowing rehabbing players to play a few games in the D-League, I proposed, would allow them to get their rhythm back without forcing his team to readjust to him when he wasn’t at full strength. Clint refuted this notion, saying the disparity in the level of competition between the D-League and the NBA was too great, and ultimately wouldn’t help the recovering player or his NBA team. Apparently, the NBA was monitoring our twitter debate and took my side, as the new CBA allows for teams to send down injured veterans. (And yes, that’s how that rule made it into the CBA. Until you can provide me with evidence to the contrary, I will continue to believe that).
A recovering veteran has yet to play in a D-League game, though Lamar Odom was close to being the first, as it was reported that he would play a game with the Texas Legends before going back to the Mavericks. According to ESPN, however, the Mavericks have decided against playing Odom with the Legends, and the mercurial yet talented forward will return to action against the Jazz tonight.
This is a mistake. Odom, who has been absent from the team for more than a week, surely could have benefited from playing at least one or two games with the Legends. Odom is not a typical NBA player in that he doesn’t have the steel resolve of a Kobe Bryant or Dirk Nowtizki. He’s sensitive to criticism from fans, players and coaches alike. As we’ve seen in seasons past, his production is reliant on his state of mind, and From his body language to his disappointing numbers, it’s clear that Odom’s mind is focused on anything but basketball. Physically, he’s fine. Mentally, well, that’s another story entirely, which is exactly why the Mavericks should have had Odom play at least one game with the Legends.
Sometimes, a “mental injury” is a lot harder to recover from than a physical one; a strained calf is much easier to treat than a strained heart. Even though it would have only been for a few games, Odom would have been able to just play, liberated from the astronomical expectations foisted upon him before the season even began. Perhaps he could have rediscovered his love of the game, and as a result, his ability to utilize his incredible talent. With the Mavericks suffering six losses in seven games, they obviously need as much talent as they can get. But what good is that talent when it isn’t being harnessed?
Subscribe to all the Shoot Hoops news and articles straight to your RSS reader.
Sign up and get all the Shoot Hoops news straight to your inbox.
Follow us on Twitter and get in-stream messages