The Lakers had a near-perfect June, breezing through the NBA Finals in five games and capping it off with a victory parade and championship rally under sunny Southern California skies.
The first day of July, however, wasn’t as picturesque.
The Lakers remained far apart on negotiations Wednesday with their two main free-agent pieces, forwards Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza.
In particular, Ariza and his agent weren’t thrilled by the Lakers’ annual offer of $5.6 million over an unspecified number of years. Ariza, 24, was hoping for $7 million to $8 million a year. Odom, 29, is believed to be seeking $10 million a year, though it was unclear what the Lakers offered him.
Ariza’s agent, David Lee, went down to the wire last October with the Lakers while negotiating an extension for another one of his clients, Andrew Bynum. This one is at an early impasse as well.
“All we’re looking for is little appreciation for what Trevor has done,” Lee said Wednesday. “I don’t think they believe Trevor is serious about leaving, and that’s too bad. I didn’t think we’d be in this situation. I am disappointed and surprised by what I thought would be some feelings for the people who have given you everything they’ve got.”
The Lakers declined to comment.
Ariza is drawing interest from Portland, Houston, Cleveland, Toronto and the Clippers.
Of those teams, only Portland and Toronto have enough salary-cap room to offer more than the Lakers’ current offer, though the Trail Blazers and Raptors are reportedly in pursuit of Orlando forward Hedo Turkoglu.
Said Ariza: “It’s business. I understand what they are trying to do and I understand that I have to do what is best for me. I’m really not worried. It will work itself out.”
Odom and Ariza were pivotal in the Lakers’ championship run, though they are running out of teams with which to make big deals.
Detroit had the biggest salary-cap surplus this summer, but the Pistons agreed to terms Wednesday with Chicago guard Ben Gordon and Milwaukee forward Charlie Villanueva, all but ending their spending spree.
Whichever team loses the Turkoglu chase, Portland or Toronto, still will have money to spend, as will Memphis, but the Grizzlies already have a promising young small forward (Rudy Gay) and now own a decent power forward after agreeing to acquire Zach Randolph from the Clippers for Quentin Richardson.
If Ariza goes elsewhere, the Lakers could make a push for Houston free-agent forward Ron Artest, who was all but signed, sealed and delivered to the Lakers according to some Twitter dispatches and Facebook pages that cropped up Wednesday night under Artest’s name.
They were all phony, though.
“I’ve been made aware that there’s some fraudulent impostors using Twitter and Facebook, but he’s not agreed to terms with anyone,” said Artest’s agent, David Bauman. “Nor has he turned down anybody.”
The Lakers also spoke Wednesday with the representative for free-agent guard Shannon Brown, but there was no movement there.
Mbenga and Powell will be back
The Lakers made two moves Wednesday, picking up team options for DJ Mbenga and Josh Powell that will pay them $959,111 each next season. The deadline for the options was Tuesday.
The Lakers have now allocated $75.9 million next season toward 10 players with guaranteed contracts.
Mbenga, 28, averaged 2.7 points in 23 regular-season games as a backup center. He had two points in seven playoff games. Powell, 26, averaged 4.2 points in 60 regular-season games as a backup power forward. He averaged 2.1 points in 14 playoff games.
The Lakers have until Aug. 1 to decide whether to exercise a one-year, $736,420 option on guard Sun Yue. Sun had six points in 10 games as a rookie.
It wasn’t surprising to see Kobe Bryant return to the Lakers, particularly after his championship-parade proclamation that, “This is my home.”
What he chose to do with his contract status Tuesday was the only real surprise.
Instead of terminating the final two years of his contract and asking for a new five-year, $135.1-million deal, he decided to keep the remaining two years of his contract at a guaranteed $47.8 million and took a small gamble on what a three-year extension would be worth when it kicked into gear in 2011.
The Lakers and Bryant are expected to reach agreement on an extension later this month in the range of $86.3 million to $90.9 million, depending on salary-cap figures to be determined in July 2011.
Specifically, Bryant’s extension numbers will depend largely upon the maximum salary a player can earn in 2011-12, an unknown quantity because NBA owners have the right to request a new collective bargaining agreement after the 2010-11 season.
“If he’s signing an extension, he’s putting himself at the mercy of a CBA that hasn’t been agreed to yet,” said independent NBA salary-cap expert Larry Coon. “Owners are going to start trying to get more favorable terms -- shorter contracts, lower salaries, lower maximum raises. One of those things might be max salaries. Essentially, we don’t know how the max salaries are going to be defined in the next CBA.”
If maximum player salaries are on the lower side, the extension will be worth $86.3 million, bringing the total five-year value to $134.1 million, $1 million less than Bryant could have earned had he terminated the last two years of his current contract and signed a five-year contract now.
But if maximum player salaries are on the higher side in 2011, the extension could be worth up to $90.9 million, bringing the total five-year value to $138.7 million, $3.6 million more than Bryant could have earned had he signed a five-year deal now.
Adam Morrison will play for the Lakers’ summer-league team, which begins its five-game schedule July 10 in Las Vegas. Morrison totaled only 10 points in eight games with the Lakers after being acquired in February. Next season will be his fourth in the NBA. . . . Don’t look now, but the Lakers are no longer the lone favorite to win the 2010 championship. They’ve been caught by the Cleveland Cavaliers, who started out at 3-to-1 odds but jumped after the Shaquille O’Neal trade to 9-to-4 odds, where the Lakers currently reside, according to Bodog.com.