“I’m just not sure we are on the same page,” Kupchak said of the negotiations.
The impatience and frustration among the tight-lipped Laker front office is palpable. They made what they think is a fair offer to Lamar Odom — three years for around $27 million, which at $9 million per year is more than he can make from any other team. The Lakers saw that as a good offer to reward a player who willingly came off the bench to help the Lakers win a title.
And Odom didn’t take it.
The issue for Odom isn’t money, it’s years — he wants five, not three. Lamar Odom is 29 years old; he doesn’t want to have to scrape for a new contract when he is 32, because it is very hard to get a decent NBA contract at that age.
Odom’s problem is his other suitors do not fit his needs. Dallas (rumored to be entering the Odom sweepstakes) is pretty typical — they can offer no more than $5.8 million, but can do so for five years. With raises, over the course of that contract, he would make about $32 million. The most any non-Lakers team could offer per year Portland’s $7.7 million and they say are not interested. Odom doesn’t like his choices, so he’s being patient waiting for another one.
While Kupchak and Jerry Buss — not to mention “I want my cake and to eat it too” Lakers fans — may be frustrated, Odom has no reason to rush. He has some leverage — the Lakers don’t want to walk away from a championship piece, their offer is on the table, why shouldn’t Odom try to find a better one? Why not let the Laker management stew and fans talk of pie-in-the-sky sign-and-trade deals (not going to happen, if you ask Laker people) and see if they raise their offer? They already have once.
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In response, the Lakers brass tries to rattle some cages at the Summer League by hinting they may walk away from the table. They won’t — there is no free agent they can get who begins to bring what Odom can. But they are serious about being done negotiating. The deal on the table is it.
If Odom was serious when he said that he really wants to play in LA, then there is a good deal on the table and he should grab it. But if what matters most is security over more years for less money, well, those options are on the table too. Odom is not going to get everything he wants, like the rest of the world in this economy, he will have to settle a little. Everyone just wishes he would do it soon.