Kobe To Return; What About Odom and Ariza?

Trevor Ariza has plenty of fans in other team's front offices.

It’s a sign of just how paranoid Lakers fans can be that the fact Kobe decided not to opt out of his contract and leave the team he just won a title with qualifies as news. Relax people, Kobe isn’t going anywhere — he said that at the parade — and he and the team are working on a three-year extension to his current deal, meaning he will be a Laker another five years (through this championship window).

The question now is will Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom be with him? In this case, it’s not paranoia if someone is out to get you.

All the Lakers want to do is bring back the exact team that just won a title then dare anyone else in the NBA to beat it. Good plan. But Odom and Ariza are free agents, played well in the playoffs they are free to follow the money if they want, potentially leaving the Lakers with a big hole in their roster.

Fortunately, in this economy, there isn’t a lot of money to follow. A few teams have taken on players for a title run — the desperate moves in Cleveland to bring in Shaq and keep LeBron James happy, for example — but every other owner just took a huge hit in their stock portfolio, a HUGE hit, and they are not looking to spend big.

Odom has said he loves it here and will offer a hometown discount. There were not reports of teams knocking down his door last night (save for the bogus rumors about San Antonio and Phoenix, probably planted by Odom’s agent). If the Lakers make a fair offer ($7.5 million a year for four years?) he’ll be back.

Ariza will get some love — a young and improving swing man who can play defense is always in demand. But in this economy, he is likely going to make in the $5 million to $6 million range. And it is likely the Lakers will match.

Laker fans can stop worrying so much about their team. Instead, worry about how good the San Antonio Spurs may be next year.

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