Once Mark Cuban gave the go-ahead to gut the Dallas Mavericks‘ roster and let key players such as Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler and J.J. Barea sign with other teams, we figured the Mavs weren’t going to repeat as champions.
So fans tempered their expectations and prepared for an early playoff exit, though it’s doubtful anyone figured the Mavs would get swept out of the playoffs as the Western Conference’s seventh seed.
While it wasn’t the preferred method of doing business after winning a championship, fans understood the ground rules, whether they agreed with the concept or not.
Then Cuban and Donnie Nelson ruined it all.
They acquired Lamar Odom, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, for the equivalent of a couple of Wal-Mart gift cards and a pair of Air Jordans.
With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that adding Lam Lam, who had the epitome of a loser mentality this season, was the single biggest mistake Cuban and Nelson made this season because acquiring Odom gave fans hope.
They believed Lam Lam and his versatile skill set — passing, rebounding, scoring and defense — would make the Mavs contenders after all.
Now, of course, we know the rest of the story.
Cuban and Nelson were wrong about Lam Lam’s impact on the Mavs. All of us were wrong.
His addition was a colossal failure, the worst free acquisition in the NBA this season. The worse acquisition of its type on Mavs history.
Yes, worse than Antoine Rigaudeau and Chris Anstey. It was even worse than Tariq Abdul-Wahad. None of those players were supposed to help the Mavs defend a title. None of those players came with Lam Lam’s résumé. None of those dudes ratcheted up expectations, positioning fans to have their collective hearts yanked out by Lam Lam’s indifference on the basketball court.
Nothing is worse than false hope — fool’s gold, if you will. That’s Lam Lam’s legacy in Dallas.
That’s because he didn’t care about playing here or being a professional for whatever reason. All he wanted was some sucker to pay his salary this season.
You can blame an offseason filled with personal tragedy. Or you can blame Lam Lam’s indifference on heartbreak after the Los Angeles Lakers failed to dump him on New Orleans before sending him to the Mavs.
You can even blame his wife, if you choose, and her silly reality show, because it stole what little focus Lam Lam had from basketball.
Without the distraction Lam Lam provided, the Mavs would’ve maximized the talent on this team with the unselfish brand of play that’s become the norm under Rick Carlisle.
Who knows how many games they would’ve won? But we all know they would’ve performed better if they hadn’t spent so much time placating Lam Lam or begging him to play.
All the time they spent publicly and privately dealing with his issues and hangups and baggage sucked the spirit from this team.
In the end, Carlisle grew weary of even answering questions about Lam Lam. So did Dirk Nowitzki.
By the time the Mavs told him to get lost for the rest of the season, his negativity had already infected the Mavs. Tell me, who’s surprised Lam Lam’s teammates reportedly voted not to give him a playoff share?
My opinion of Lam Lam has changed since he first arrived in Dallas. Everyone deals with tragedy differently, so I thought we should be patient as he sorted through his personal issues.
But when the reports came out that he was habitually late to practice and meetings and showed no inclination that he wanted to buy into Carlisle’s program, it became clear we’d all been played.
Then you read Lam Lam’s timeline on Twitter these days when he’s talking about running on the beach with his wife. Or planning to be a fashion icon like Diddy. Or working to be the NBA’s Comeback Player of the Year next season.
All those tweets do is remove all doubt that he played Cuban, Nelson and the fans.