Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Free Agent Lamar Odom Returns To The Lakers

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By Ross Everett

After a month long free agency soap opera, both Lamar Odom and the Los Angeles Lakers got what they really wanted all along. The Lakers retained the services of their valuable sixth man, and Odom will return to the team after an intense recruiting pitch from the Miami Heat. On Friday, Odom officially signed his new contract with the NBA Champions thus insuring that the nucleus of the roster will remain intact.

Terms of the deal were similar to the contract offer that was pulled in early July, starting the entire drama. After negotiations broke down due to some miscommunication between Odoms agent and Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss it looked for awhile like Odom was headed elsewhere. While Odom worked to mend fences"including several personal phone calls to Dr. Buss"his agent was receiving interest from Miami, Portland and Dallas.

When it was all said and done, Odom didn't want to leave Los Angeles At the official signing ceremony, he hinted that a dynasty could be in the making:

"I guess basketball-wise, I feel complete. I want to feel it again. It's kind of an overwhelming feeling. I get goose bumps when I think about it, and as long as I continue to play professional basketball, I want to always feel that. The way I feel during the summer, I always want to feel that. If we can win six, seven, eight, nine, 10 championships in a row, I want to experience that."

While talk of 10 straight championships may be mere hyperbole, theres no reason the Lakers cant run off a repeat or better with their current lineup. The only significant loss to last years NBA title winning team was Trevor Ariza, but the teams signing of Ron Artest is likely an upgrade. Artest brings not only his infamous swagger and intensity, but an element of toughness and versatility that Ariza lacked. Such was Odoms commitment to the Lakers is that even during his free agency, he helped recruit Artest to sign with the team:

"I spoke to Ron two days before he signed, and I told him how important I think it is for him to come here. Because I know how hard he works, he needs to experience basketball at its best, at the highest level, and he needs to become a Laker. Two days after that, he signed."

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak sounded relieved that everything worked out in the end:

"Three or four months ago, I didn't think it could be possible that we could basically bring this team back in whole. Lamar had a wonderful season that ended on the best possible note you could have, and Lamar had a lot of options. ... Here it is, July 31, and we have brought back everybody that we wanted to bring back."

Odom has spent most of his career in L.A., either with the Lakers or the Clippers, and he noted that the city is home to him and his family:

"I didn't want my kids to have to change schools -- just the little things. I'm comfortable here. I've been here since I was' years old. I'm proud to be playing for what I think is the most popular brand in sports.

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