Lamar Odom is on the Move

Last night I was up late abusing the “swap” button on my remote by jumping between the movie, “Saving Private Ryan” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live”. I love “Saving Private Ryan”, but I was glued to Jimmy Kimmel's brand of comedy because the LA Lakers were the guests. Coming off their NBA Championship, I was glued to the TV for three main reasons (and none having to do with catching Kobe 's wife's ta-ta's in glorious high definition).

The first was the presence of Trevor Ariza. Obviously the show was a repeat from a late-June appearance, but it got me wondering if Ariza knew then that he wasn't going to resign with the Lakers. Now a member of the Rockets, Ariza looked like such an integral part of the Lakers. It was even stranger since he was one of four Lakers (along with Pau Gasol, Fisher and Kobe ) to appear first before the rest of the team.

My favorite part was the presence of Adam Morrison, who looked sheepishly out of place amongst his teammates. Not just because he's white, but because he looked awkwardly embarrassed to be there. Do you remember this guy? This is the same mustache-bearing cowboy who branded a freaking NBA video game, and cried in the 2005 college March Madness Tournament when Gonzaga was bounced. Morrison was the third overall pick for God's sake!

The interesting thing about Morrison is that few people doubted his abilities heading in to the league. He was drafted by Michael Jordan as the third overall pick, and scored 14.6 points in his first season as a Bobcat. But an ACL injury he sustained heading in to the 2007-08 campaigned curtailed what looked to be a potentially promising career. Morrison now seems ashamed of winning an NBA title, probably because he thought he'd be the reason.

But those two accidentally comedic parts aside, the part that was the most intriguing was the omission of Lamar Odom who remains in free-agent limbo as an unrestricted free-agent. Kimmel even asked Kobe where Lamar was, and nobody could answer the question. When probed about his free-agent status, Kobe answered, “He ain't going nowhere,” to a ruckus of cheers from the Los Angeles crowd.

Odom averaged 11.3 points per game last season, along with 8.2 rebounds. He bettered those stats in the playoffs, with 12.3 points per game and 9.1 boards, en route to an NBA Championship. The fourth overall pick from the 1999 NBA Draft has been a member of the Clippers, Heat and Lakers and has one NBA Championship to his name. Contract negotiations have hit a stalemate in L.A. , largely due to the fact that the Lakers are on hook for $84.6 million this year and $75.7 million next year. The luxury tax level is set at $69.92 million, meaning the Lakers already owe the league $14.68 million in luxury taxes that will be redistributed through non-tax-paying teams. Odom is a player worthy of $8-$10 million given that guys like Hedo Turkoglu make that amount. Should Mitch Kupchak bring Odom back, he's going to be paying a boat load to the league due to the luxury tax.

In today's NBA, that's the price of an NBA Championship. And for the Lakers, who have already lost the guy that was supposed to be Kobe 's new wingman (Ariza), retaining Odom is priority-one this off-season. They've already brought in Ron Artest to eat away at Odom's minutes, and we all know that Odom is veritably useless coming of the bench. So where is he likely to end up?

In dire economic times, there are only a few teams that can afford paying a luxury tax. Of those, the Dallas Mavericks and Mark Cuban are the most interested in attaining Odom's services. The Mavs are apparently offering their $5.8 mid-level exception, but could offer more should they be willing to exceed the luxury tax level already set. The Mavs have $69.68 million towards the cap already and have yet to finalize the contracts of Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion.

Where Odom goes is a crapshoot. The odds are that he stays in L.A. because Kobe will probably break his knees should he even pretend like he's leaving. The problem is that Odom, at 29, is banking on the championship ring that he “helped” bring to L.A. He's not looking to remain a Laker and bring home another championship. He's looking for money and financial security.

Given the times, I'm not so sure that Odom's mid-level skill set will bring him all that much…unless he goes back to being a Clipper.