Lamar Odom, on contract negotiations with the Lakers
I caught up with Lamar Odom at a screening for the 2008-2009 NBA Champions: The Los Angeles Lakers DVD. With talk swirling over Mitch Kupchak's comments to the O.C. Register about being "not as hopeful" as last week LO will be re-signed (pessimism similar to what was expressed to the L.A. Times' Broderick Turner), I wanted to get Lamar's perspective. While more serious than usual, he gave me (and the Daily News' Ramona Shelburne) the impression that he's not ready to turn the page on his Laker story book.
During our conversation, it felt like Lamar was trying to remain as detached as possible from the process. He continually reminded me that business isn't personal and often requires a lot of discussion before everyone is satisfied. "No one says it's going to 100% your way... or their way," noted LO.
I definitely sensed Odom's frustration that a deal hasn't been hammered out and he'd still be making a case for himself, but at the same time, he also didn't seem thrown for a complete loop. After all, Odom runs businesses, so these aren't exactly uncharted waters. Beyond that, this also isn't his experience working out a free agent deal. His agent (Jeff Schwartz) may be growing emotional, but LO is at least attempting to keep his blood lower than a boil. "It is what it is" was a continual refrain.
"We try to do what's best for both sides," said Odom. "What's fair. That's what negotiating is about. It doesn't happen all the time overnight." Plus, no two ways around it: Money is just a touchy subject. "You can have a brother, a sister, a great father, but then when you start talking about money, it gets a little, like.... ehhhhhh. You know what I mean?"
Despite the obvious complications, I'm still reasonably "hopeful" (to use the official "Phrase of the Day") an agreement will be reached. Beyond few options for comparable (much less better) money and/or situations than with the Lakers, they really can't afford to let Odom go. The veteran's minimum won't fetch anyone with even close to the same skill set. And with all due respect to Josh Powell, the team's mojo decreases considerably with him taking LO's place either as the first big off the bench or- gulp!- the starting four if Andrew Bynum's bad luck with injuries continue. Yes, trading is an option, but who's available that could make an impact and at what price? Retaining LO is simpler and more sensible. Not to mention what I think Lamar prefers, all things being equal. (Plus, the interview room's lighting was purple. That's gotta mean something, right?)
I've also got some copy with Derek Fisher, Jordan Farmar and Luke Walton, but I wanted to get LO's video up ASAP.