Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Candyman is Coming Back to Cali

#7 is Returning!


Free agent forward Lamar Odom will return to the Los Angeles Lakers, an NBA source said Thursday.

One source with knowledge of the talks told the four-year deal is worth $33 million if the Lakers exercise the final season.

One source close to the process said Odom will come away with a guaranteed $27 million from the new contract, matching the original value of the three-year, $27 million deal Lakers owner Jerry Buss pulled off the table earlier this month.

It's believed that the structure of the new deal calls for Odom to earn $25 million over the first three seasons, with the Lakers owing him $2 million in the fourth year if they elect not to pick up their team option.

Reached Thursday evening, Odom's agent Jeff Schwartz declined to discuss specifics but confirmed that the sides have an agreement in principle.

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak declined comment.

Odom's signing was the most significant free agent move left to play out this summer, as it restores a pivotal piece to the Lakers' championship team. The versatile, 6-foot-9 Odom averaged 11.3 points and 8.2 rebounds during the regular season and 12.3 points and 9.1 rebounds during the playoffs, despite injuring his back in a fall during the Western Conference semifinals against Houston.

Odom's destination for the 2009-10 season had remained in doubt after the Lakers pulled an initial offer of a reported $27 million guaranteed over three years off the table. As the other franchises with significant salary cap space spent their money elsewhere, the Miami Heat emerged as a serious contender for Odom's services.

On Tuesday, the Portland Trail Blazers also got into the mix, offering a five-year, $40 million deal, according to a source close to Odom.

With Dwyane Wade publicly lobbying for Odom to rejoin him in South Beach, the Heat offered a deal worth up to $34 million over five years. The fact that Odom didn't jump at it despite the cooled tone of negotiations with the Lakers indicated his desire to return to Los Angeles, and the longer the saga dragged out the greater the chances seemed that he would be back.

With Odom back in the fold the Lakers would have their top five scorers and top four rebounders from the 2009 championship on the roster to begin the title defense. The only significant loss is forward Trevor Ariza, who left to sign a contract with the Houston Rockets after the Lakers signed former Rocket Ron Artest.

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