The 2008-2009 Los Angeles Lakers were a great team: an all-star center/power-forward with great versatility, a veteran point-guard with three championship rings, the best player in basketball, and a pair of key role-players who could be counted on to make the right plays in difficult situations. A young team, the Lakers would have had an opportunity to win more championships with the same group of guys, but that hope has passed. One or both of the key role-players won’t be on the roster next year. The first, Trevor Ariza, was unable to negotiate a contract with the Lakers and has signed instead with the Houston Rockets; and the future of the other role-player, Lamar Odom, is still uncertain.
But who is to blame for the failure to resign Ariza and the uncertainty of Odom’s future?
Coming out of the season it was clear that Ariza wanted to stay a Laker.
Even now, while contract negotiations have turned into disputes, Odom has not made it a secret that he wants to be a Laker next year.
There is no doubt the Lakers themselves wanted to preserve their championship team, and it offered both of those players great contracts.
It’s not the team’s fault, or Ariza’s, or Odom’s; the real people that are to blame are the agents.
The Lakers planned on having Trevor Ariza back next year, and they gave him every opportunity to come back, but his agent, David Lee, felt Ariza shouldn’t sign the deal Los Angeles had presented him. Instead Lee convinced Ariza to hold out for more money; then he tried to intimidate the Lakers by getting as many teams as he could to consider the idea of Ariza signing with them and making sure that the Lakers knew it. The Lakers didn’t appreciate the attitude and showed him and his client the door, signing Ron Artest instead. Lee and Ariza were left to sign a contract with Houston to effectively replace Artest. The deal, for 5 years and $33 million, is the same deal Los Angeles was willing to give him, but now Ariza is forced to go from a championship team to a team that is in the stage of totally rebuilding its personnel. There is no way Ariza is happy about that.
Lamar Odom is still in the midst of his contract negotiations; luckily his agent hasn’t been able to completely blow it just yet. There is no doubt that Odom wants to come back to the Lakers, he made it clear a number of times, and the Lakers definitely want him back. Los Angeles has given him great contract offers, 4 years for $36 million and $3 years for $30 million, but after talks broke down with Odom’s agent, both offers were pulled off the table. Since then it’s reported that Odom has spent a good amount of his time calling Lakers owner Jerry Buss, and other members of the organization, to reconcile relationships that his agent had destroyed. Meanwhile his agent has been entertaining similar offers from other teams, offers for the same or less money with teams Odom doesn’t want to play for.
Two players on the Lakers have had their off-seasons, and potentially their careers, go down roads that they did not want due to the strong advice and grandstanding of their agents. They aren’t the only two; in recent years situations like these have happened all over the sports world, and it’s only been getting worse. An agent’s job used to be to get what their clients wanted, but now it seems that much of an agent’s job is telling the client what he wants, and as a result the teams, the players, and the fans all come out losers in the end.