Free Agent Lamar Odom Returns To The Lakers

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. Odom officially signed his new contract with the NBA Champions and along with the addition of Ron Artest the Lakers may actually be stronger than last years title winning squad.

Terms of the deal weren’t immediately released, but both player and team appeared relieved that things had worked out. In early July, negotiations broke down after some miscommunication between Odom’s agent and Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss. While Odom worked to mend fences”including several personal phone calls to Dr. Buss”his agent was receiving interest from Miami, Portland and Dallas. Miami, in particular, was extremely interest bringing out the big guns in the personage of Dwayne Wade and Pat Riley to make a recruiting pitch.

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.”

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 was understandably elated at Odom’s return:

“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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