Artest To Wear No. 37 As Michael Jackson Tribute

If the Lakers re-sign Odom, they will have another MJ tribute as well.

The Michael Jackson tribute at Staples Center will not end.

Not with Ron Artest in town. The Lakers newest, most unpredictable member (he officially signed his deal last night) will wear number 37 — in honor of how many weeks Jackson’s epic “Thriller” sat on top of the Billboard charts.

At least that MJ tribute at Staples will not involve John Mayer playing guitar.

It also begs the question — will Artest turn out to be one of the "Thriller" zombies?

Not on your life — whatever Artest does on the court, nobody will accuse him of being dead or lacking effort. But the Lakers still need to get Lamar Odom (their lone outstanding free agent) signed to back up the Lakers newest Jackson fan. That’s because of the little discussed fact that Artest is injury prone — he has missed at least a dozen games and as many as 26 in each of the last four seasons. He’s not quite as frail as Michael Jackson was, but his body isn’t holding up all that great by NBA standards.

The Lakers negotiations with Odom are slower than some Lakers fans would like, but that’s because the demand for Odom isn’t as high as it was for Trevor Ariza or Ron Artest or even Shannon Brown (who took less money to come back to Los Angeles), so there is no real pressure to get it signed. It’s silly in the sense that Odom is a better player than almost everyone who has signed – but the free market is a crazy thing.

There were only a couple teams that could spend more than the mid-level exception to the NBA salary cap on Odom (about $5.6 million) — and the only one left is Portland. And every reasonable report out of Portland said they are not that interested.

Odom’s agents are doing what they should — trying to look around for the best deal for their client. And unlike Ariza’s agent David Lee, they haven’t felt the need to whine about the negotiations through the media. For Lakers fans used to Lee’s attempts at public manipulations — remember he was Bynum’s agent, too — the Odom talks seem like they are in radio silence.

In the end, Odom doesn’t have a lot of options for teams that can spend more than $5.6 million a year on him. The Lakers can and will spend more than that, it’s just a matter of getting to the right price.

Besides, Odom needs to be back to be part of the Michael Jackson tribute — both "Black & White" and "Billie Jean" were on top of the Billboard singles chart for seven weeks. And Odom is already wearing #7. Coincidence?

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