The Odom Negotiations: No Need to Panic

The Los Angeles Times tonight has sent Lakerdom all aflutter with a report that the team has pulled its contract offer to free agent Lamar Odom. Sayeth Broderick Turner:

Lakers owner Jerry Buss is upset that Odom and his representative, agent Jeff Schwartz, haven't made contact with the organization regarding its $9-million per season offer for three years, one source said Tuesday.

Odom and his agent have been seeking $10 million for five years.

[snip]

The source also said Buss was not happy that Odom and Schwartz have been having talks with the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat about a deal, but have refused to talk with the Lakers.

Awww. Hurt feelings all around, I guess.

I'm on record with arguing that re-upping Lamar is imperative for the Lakers, but I'm going to respectfully decline the opportunity to sink into despair over this latest report. Why? Because it's almost certainly not true.

I mean, I'm sure it's true in the sense that a source actually told the Times what the article claims. But there's almost no possibility that the Lakers have in fact withdrawn their contract offer to Lamar.

If Jeff Schwartz called Dr. Buss tomorrow morning to inform him that Lamar would like to execute a contract to play for the Lakers at $9 million per year for three years, the Lakers would gladly sign on the dotted line. They would do so because it's in their best interests to do so. If yesterday, the next three seasons of Lamar Odom's career were worth $27 million to the team, they're still going to be worth that much tomorrow. No salient fact will have changed in the meantime.

Keep in mind, as far as player payroll goes, the Lakers have no other way to use that money. They're over the cap, they've re-signed their other free agents, and they've used their cap exceptions. It's not like there's another available player behind Door Number Two that they're keeping on hold. It's either sign Lamar (or sign him and trade him), or move on with the roster they've got.

If we were on the verge of fall camp, the notion of pulling an offer might have some credibility. At that point, a team might legitimately claim that it needs to have its complete roster in place so that the right players can practice together. That's debatably a fish-or-cut-bait moment. The middle of July is exactly the opposite of that.

If Lamar and his agent haven't returned calls about the Lakers' latest offer, that means it's not good enough, at least not yet. It means it's not an offer they're prepared to accept at this moment. It also bears mentioning that the NBA collective bargaining agreement affords Lamar and his agent the right to negotiate with other teams. That's what free agency is.

Dr. Buss is a smart guy and an experienced negotiator, so I'm sure he's aware of the foregoing. Leaking to a reporter that he's "pulled the offer" is mere table-pounding on his part, something to startle the other side in the hopes of getting the deal done. That's fair. But the Times notwithstanding, I'll believe Lamar's heading to Miami or Dallas when I actually see him hold up his new jersey at a press conference.

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