DALLAS (AP) — Lamar Odom knows what it takes to repeat as an NBA champion.
Vince Carter wants to know what it feels like to become an NBA champion.
The Dallas Mavericks are hoping a little of both — Odom’s experience and Carter’s hunger — can go a long way to help their title defense.
The two newcomers were the stars of Mavs media day on Tuesday because of what they represent. They’re the proof that team owner Mark Cuban is serious about winning it all again, which is something fans were questioning just a few days ago when the billionaire was letting the core of last year’s team dissolve with the departure of free agents Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler and J.J. Barea.
Sure, adding two more players in their 30s keeps Dallas among the league’s older teams. But they also should keep the Mavs among the best teams in this lockout-shortened season, especially with the other newcomers joining the mix, such as Delonte West and Rudy Fernandez.
“Having depth and having good guys that can play is part and parcel to being effective,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “The deepest team that can stay healthy and stay together is the team that’s going to have the best chance to come out of the West.”
Late last week, things were looking bleak for Dallas’ chances of coming out of the West when the Lakers were poised to get Chris Paul from New Orleans, with Odom part of the bait. Then the league blocked that deal.
The Lakers were still willing to get rid of Odom and the Mavericks were eager to get him. The deal was struck quickly, using a trade exception Dallas acquired from New York as part of another move that helped pave the way for Chandler to join the Knicks.
Odom was stunned the Lakers didn’t want him around. He was glad the commissioner rejected the deal to New Orleans because he wanted to contend for a championship, not start over with a young team. He said he told the Lakers that if they had to deal him, Dallas topped his wish list.
“It’s definitely surreal,” he said. “It happened like that,” he said, snapping his fingers.
Odom also felt disrespected because he never saw this coming. Over seven years, he won two titles and last season was named the league’s Sixth Man of the Year.
“If somebody is telling you, ‘You can’t be here, there’s no more room for you,’ you’ve got to understand that,” he said. “I think it’s because of how they did it that I took it so personally.”
He wouldn’t describe his initial thoughts about the deal to New Orleans, because, “I can’t cuss.” He appreciated Kobe Bryant speaking out against the trade, and found it curious that Los Angeles not only would send him to a conference rival, but to the team that swept the Lakers from the playoffs last season, ending their two-year reign as champs.
“Any time you make a sudden switch, it gets a little emotional,” Odom said. “But I’m here now. I’m a Maverick. It’s time to put the past behind me.”
Since Odom left, there’s been chatter about his reality show being a distraction to last year’s team. He seems to believe that is revisionist history.
“It’s something you’ve got to take with a grain of salt,” he said. “I just wish that, if it was, somebody would’ve told me a little earlier. If it was, then I would’ve done something about it.”
Odom also proudly noted that he had a great season while the cameras were rolling.
“You never know what’s going to make you concentrate just a little harder, and I think it did,” he said.
He’s not sure whether the show will continue. He plans to discuss it with his teammates, coach and Cuban — not that he thinks it will be a tough sell with Cuban, himself a past and present reality show star. Heck, if anything, Cuban might want the show moved to the cable network he owns, HDNet.
“He seems like he’s the kind of guy who’ll like it,” Odom said, laughing.
Carter — a former All-Star and dunk champion — became a free agent after the Phoenix Suns bought out his contract. He chose to sign with Dallas because he’s at the point in his career where all that matters to him is “winning, and playing on a team that wants to win and knows how to win.”
“I think they’ve shown all of that,” he said. “My goal is to fit in with what they’ve accomplished and who they are. … If we can continue like they’ve done before — just leave the egos outside, it’s not about how many points you’re going to score, it’s how productive you’re going to be for your team to win — with the firepower we have, we’ll be fine.”
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.