The trend in any free agency of any sports league is for the marquee players to be signed immediately and usually for lucrative salary deals. That’s why as I examine the remaining free agents I find it hard to imagine why Odom is still on the market; even though, other free agents have signed.
I don’t know what Odom’s asking price is, and whether teams find the price too high. Reportedly Odom has asked for $10 million per season. For his versatility, that seems to be an appropriate contract. Odom is known for his scoring, ball handling, and rebounding. He also has accepted a role off the bench and has been a good citizen off the court.
I am also perplexed that teams have not aggressively pursued Odom to help provide another offensive punch. But what surprises me most is the lack of urgency by the Lakers to resign an important member of the team.
Odom is the perfect complement to Pau Gasol. During the season, the interior passing between the two was something to behold. The Gasol-Odom tandem is an undervalued combination of big men. The triangle offense requires efficient passing and these players work well together. Not to mention Bynum’s recent injuries have been masked by the Lakers depth with big men anchored by Odom.
In this economy, it is understandably difficult for teams to offer long-term large salary cap eating contracts. Already, the Lakers are paying the price for Bynum’s contract and their overall salary is currently above the luxury tax threshold by about $10 million.
Even the Lakers have to be cautious in this economic downturn, so they are hesitant to increase their exorbitant payroll. With the state of California in economic peril, and signs of economic recovery still bleak, the owners have to show some fiscal restraint.
The Lakers championship window is wide open, and Odom showed his importance to the team off the bench. When he plays consistently, Lamar is a major mismatch that other teams can’t guard; the Lakers are virtually unbeatable. He is the player that separates the Lakers from the rest of the Western Conference contenders, the X-factor.
I have believed that despite other teams’ moves, the Lakers still are by far the most talented and deepest team thanks to the one-sided trade by the Grizzlies. Odom was the most important bench player, and other teams might be able to weaken the Lakers and close the gap, by signing Lamar Odom.
A contract of $10 million per year demands consistency, yet Odom has disappeared many nights from the game. Odom hasn’t thrived as the go-to-guy; instead primarily scores as the third or fourth option. Contending teams are hesitant to sign Odom because of the inconsistency and that’s why the Lakers might be able to resign Odom for a below market contract.
A warning can be learned from the Trevor Ariza free agency situation. A low ball offer from the Lakers might just force Odom to leave for another team like Portland.
This free agency has been notable regarding the fact that major players near All-Star level have signed primarily with contending teams, and thus created an arms race.
Lamar Odom is the last major free agent who could either solidify the Lakers dreams of a dynasty, or could shift the balance of power in the wild western conference.
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