He creates mismatches on the floor. He is deceptively long. He can rebound. He can shoot. He is unselfish. He will help bring the Lakers to the Promised Land yet again. So why did it take so long for the Lakers organization to sign Lamar Odom?
Many factors were at play here. Odom demanded a pay raise. The Lakers paid about $70 million in payroll last season. By signing Odom, they would be looking at about $90 million, $110 or so million with taxes. Despite signing a new radio deal with ESPN, receiving some bonuses for hosting several postseason contests and increased revenue sharing due to inflated merchandise sales and a league-wide TV deal, Lakers Owner Jerry Buss would likely be writing a check from his personal account on this one.
Moreover, Odom’s postseason heroics had several other teams in the league raising their brow. Therefore, while the Lakers stood pat, Odom entertained offers from the Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets and Miami Heat.
Heat superstar Dwayne Wade even used his mobile-to-mobile units to hit his former teammate. Sorry, Chuck. If he were to leave, Odom would have ventured to Miami, a little town where he already has a home, friends, and fan following.
However, the Lakers organization made a move that satisfied Odom and his agent Jeff Schwartz. A guaranteed four-year deal worth $33 million brought Odom back to the Staples Center, a venue where Odom has played much of his ten-year career.
The forward returns home at a critical time. The Lakers improve with the addition of gritty veteran Ron Artest (signed early last month after leaving the Houston Rockets). However, such was the theme this offseason. The Celtics added Rasheed Wallace. The Spurs traded for Richard Jefferson. The Cavaliers acquired Shaquille O’Neal. The Magic ended up with Vince Carter. Many teams improved by adding depth or veteran leadership to their arsenals. Yet, the Lakers look to be the favorites in the race for the 2009-10 NBA Championship.
My prediction is those scrappy youngsters up in Portland will give the Lakers the most trouble in the West. The now-seasoned Cavaliers will likely be going fist-to-cuffs with the Magic in the East. So, unless I experience some divine intervention, I’ll stand by my 2009-10 prediction: Lakers over Cavaliers in a mouth-watering series that never was in 2008-09. Lebron, Kobe. Kobe, Lebron. Who cares? Just give us some good basketball.