Jul 15, 2009

Lamar Odom

The facts:
- Lamar Odom wants a contract in the realm of 5 years, 50 million (10 million a year)
- Lakers offered Lamar Odom two potential contracts. 3 years, approximately 30 million total (10 million a year). 4 years, approximately 36 million (9 million a year).
- Lamar Odom and Jeff Schwartz (his agent) have not responded to the offer, not giving Jerry Buss (owner) any indication of their thoughts. Instead, they have used these offers as leverage in negotiating with other teams, namely the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat.

Since the beginning I felt this situation was extremely tough. Lamar is very good. He was good for us. He was integral in winning our championship - without him, we would not have won. He was more valuable than Bynum, Sasha, or Luke. And yet, all three of those players have gotten "bigger" contracts than what Lamar is being offered. I can see that from his perspective, this isn't fair. He feels that 50 million for 5 years is reasonable, considering Bynum's (potential - team option for last year) 58 million 4 year contract.

From the Lakers management side, this offer is more than generous. Lamar Odom is not our starter. Even if he is used more than Bynum, especially in crunch time, the team's commitment is to the development of our 22 year old 7 footer, with goals of using him more and more prominently. Given this fact, it makes little sense to place greater value on Odom. And with our contractual obligations to Bynum, Odom's importance to the team's future is meant to diminish. In a vacuum, it is probably fair to say Odom deserves to get paid more than Bynum, based on past performance. But we don't live in a vacuum, and NBA salaries especially don't live in a vacuum. Paying Odom anything costs the Lakers double because of the salary cap.

There are several arguments for and against the Bynum extension offered earlier in the season. On the one hand, his production has not warranted the money and years. His stand out games this season can be counted on your fingers. On the other hand, he has shown flashes of greatness. And at only 22, it is reasonable to assume he will get better, particularly more consistent. I've seen enough of "good" Bynum to be hopeful. I think the extension was a smart move, especially considering the 4th year team option.

From the LA Times: "Many in the Lakers' organization believe that Odom wants to accept Buss' offer -- and so do those close to Odom -- but he has failed to convince his agent." Agents have a tough job. How do you balance a client's personal desires with the priority of earning him as much money as possible? I'm assuming that's what an agent's purpose is. That's a fine line to walk.

Any offers Lamar gets from Dallas and Miami might be comparable to LA's, given state taxes. But that might be meaningless - Ariza took the same money per year, albeit for 2 more years, and went from the champions to a team in rebuilding mode. There seems to be only one possible "better" contract wrinkle. If Utah matches Portland's offer to Paul Milsap, Portland has a fair amount of cap space to sign Odom to the type of deal he wants. The Blazer's want Milsap though. They specifically structured their deal to make it difficult for Utah to match. They'd like to get rid of Boozer to make room for Milsap, but its hard to get value when everyone knows you're shopping him around. I think Utah is too hamstrung to sign Milsap before the deadline.

Let's assume Portland signs Milsap. Then, unlike Ariza, Odom really has no potential for a "better" contract. He'll want to come back to the negotiating table, and it is assumed Jerry Buss will lower his offer. From my perspective? Big mistake by Jeff Schwartz. That 4 year, 36 million offer is looking really appetizing right now.

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