To quote the immortal words of Blazing Saddles’ Taggart, “What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on here?”
ESPN is now reporting that the LA Lakers have retracted the three-year extension they had offered to forward Lamar Odom.
Odom became a free agent earlier this summer and was, of course, vital to the Lakers’ championship run. Odom has also been vocal about his desire to remain in Los Angeles, much like Trevor Ariza was before he shipped out to Houston to join the Rockets.
While Ariza may have felt disrespected by the amount of money the Lakers were offering him, Odom’s hang-up seems to be with the number of years his extension will guarantee him. The deal the Lakers are offering would be for three years, and the 29-year-old Odom is looking for five.
The three-year deal not being to Odom’s liking, he started talks with other NBA teams, including the Miami Heat. This move was apparently what angered the Lakers organization and caused them to rescind their three-year contract.
While contract negotiations have been known to go awry, it does leave one to wonder, who the heck is running these talks in the Lakers organization?
After the NBA Finals ended, Trevor Ariza was a Lakers loyalist. But it didn’t take long for the LA native to get frustrated with the Lakers' contract offers and eventually leave his championship team.
Fine. Lakers fans knew that money was tight, and Ariza is a brilliant young role player, but he is still just that—a role player.
LA could get someone else to fill his shoes: Ron Artest.
By letting Ariza go, the Lakers seemed to be sending the message that they were choosing Odom as their most important free agent to re-sign.
But now Odom could be slipping away.
Many have been wondering, do the Lakers need Odom back?
The answer: absolutely.
Andrew Bynum has potential and a great teacher in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but he is not ready to take on the kind of minutes he would see if Odom left LA. Bynum is also injury-prone, and there is no guarantee he can stay healthy all season.
Odom brings a lot of fire to the lineup. He is an aggressive and physical player inside, but he also has a good outside shot.
Odom averaged about 12 points per game during this year’s NBA Playoffs, but more important to the team was rhythm he found with Kobe Bryant.
The timing between these two was perfect during the Playoffs and the Finals.
Perhaps the most memorable plays between Bryant and Odom were when Bryant would drive in to the paint, jump like he was going to shoot, and then dump the ball off to Odom, who’d finish the play by dunking on whoever was under the hoop (including Chris “The Birdman” Andersen in Game Five of the playoffs against the Nuggets).
Obviously, the chemistry between Bryant and Odom is there, and that kind of rhythm is not something that can develop overnight.
Bryant will now have Artest to pass to, but there won’t be the same trust and timing between them as there is between Odom and Bryant.
Aside from the good dynamic with the team’s star, Odom is a good all-around player. As mentioned before, he can shoot. Kareem might be tutoring Bynum, but Odom has the sky hook down pretty well.
Odom is also a decent ballhandler and can bring the ball up the court.
Then there is his presence on defense. Odom averaged nine rebounds per game throughout the Playoffs.
And then there is the story the stats can’t tell.
When Odom played well, the Lakers did well.
That is the only thing you need to know about Odom and his worth to LA.
So why can’t these contract negotiators, who already chased away Ariza, at least keep Odom? Give the Candyman his payday—or in this case, what he’s asking for: another two years.
On the other hand, why is Odom apparently so eager to leave the Lakers? Did he get confused and think they were offering him three years with the LA Clippers?
This is a team that just won a championship. They will have Bryant and coach Phil Jackson back next season. Ariza will be gone, but most of Odom’s teammates, plus Artest (who Odom played with as a teenager), will return.
Basically, their chances to repeat as NBA Champions are good.
Why go to a worse team, even if they will guarantee you play (and possibly lose) for five years?
The bottom line for the Lakers franchise is this: Keeping Odom, with the addition of Artest, will make the 2009-2010 Lakers a better team.
If the Lakers lose Odom, after having already lost Ariza, they will not be a better team.
So all you Lakers fans out there, keep your fingers crossed that the Lakers’ baffling inability to keep their most talented players was just a fluke with Ariza, not a trend that sends Odom out of town.
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