He was asleep, dreaming about playing basketball somewhere, preferably back with the Lakers -- with his cellphone turned off -- unaware his agent had worked out a deal.
When Lamar Odom awoke Thursday, the free-agent forward turned on his phone and heard the message from his agent, Jeff Schwartz:
“You’re still a Laker,” the message said.
Odom called his agent back to confirm it. Odom and the Lakers had agreed on a four-year deal, reportedly for $33 million, with a team option for the final year.
The versatile 6-foot-10 forward will earn less than the last Lakers offer of about $36 million over four years, but that offer was pulled off the table two weeks ago by owner Jerry Buss.
But after a month of talking, posturing, having the Lakers’ offer taken away and then both sides resuming negotiations, and with the Miami Heat making a push to sign him, Odom is back with the Lakers.
Through it all, Odom said Thursday he wasn’t worried that the Lakers’ first deal was pulled off the table.
“Naw, only because, if worse came to worse, I was going to go somewhere that was comfortable,” said Odom, referring to the Heat, which gave him a six-year, $63-million deal in 2003 before he was traded a year later to the Lakers as part of the Shaquille O’Neal deal. “I was going to fight for what I wanted first and that was being in L.A. and being a Laker. L.A. was the first place that came to my mind. That’s where my heart was at.”
Early in July, the Lakers presented two offers to Odom.
One was a four-year deal for $9 million a season, worth up to $36 million, but only three years and $27 million was guaranteed, with the Lakers’ buyout in the fourth year worth $3 million.
The other offer was a three-year, $30-million deal that would have paid Odom $10 million a season.
“If I would have heard that one, I think I would have jumped on that,” Odom said Thursday. “I don’t remember hearing that one.”
When Odom and his agent didn’t respond quickly enough, Buss pulled the deals off the table.
Odom then spoke with Buss. His agent and Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak kept an open dialogue.
“I knew this was going to take time,” Odom said. “I knew where the Lakers were as far as money. Organizations are trying to save extra money. Players are trying to get extra money. That’s the way it is.”
Miami President Pat Riley met with Odom this week. Heat guard Dwyane Wade was also in Los Angeles making his pitch to get Odom to return to Miami.
All the Heat could offer Odom was the mid-level exception of $5.8 million a season, for a five-year total of $34 million, allowing him to opt out after three seasons and become a free agent.
Odom got calls and text messages from Lakers teammates Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher and Luke Walton.
Odom went into hiding, his entourage unable to track him down, his cellphone turned off more often than not.
“They [Riley and Wade] wanted me to come back. It was close,” Odom said. “But the situation I got here is too strong.
“It’s good that I put my personal ego aside. My basketball ego was, ‘Why we negotiating?’ But my personal ego didn’t take it personal. I put my personal ego aside a little bit. I was able to stay patient.
“That’s a great thing that I’m back playing basketball for the Lakers. I’m getting so many calls from friends. The Lakers are family. My kids don’t have to switch schools. Little things like that are important. People don’t think about things like that. I feel like something special is going to happen in this town.”
That’s because Odom knows the Lakers’ chances of repeating as NBA champions just increased because he signed.
Odom was sad to see the Lakers lose small forward Trevor Ariza, who signed a five-year, $34-million deal with the Houston Rockets. But Odom was happy that another free agent, Ron Artest, a friend since they were 12-year-olds playing basketball together in New York, left Houston and signed a similar contract with the Lakers.
Odom said he didn’t want to leave Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Fisher and the rest of the Lakers, especially Bryant.
“Riding off Kobe’s coattail ain’t bad,” Odom said, laughing. “He’s got something special going around. I’ve got to be around. I’ve got to be one of the apostles. There was no way I was going to pass up playing with Kobe, Pau, Andrew and Ron-Ron.”
Now that his negotiating ordeal is over, Odom says he plans on getting back into the gym, taking up boxing as one exercise.
Odom, who turns 30 in November, had been expecting to take less money because of his age, a declining economy and because so few teams were below the NBA salary cap enough to make him a legitimate offer.
He was on the Lakers’ books for $14.1 million last season, but his actually salary was $11.4 million because some of his salary was paid up front in a trade-kicker when he was dealt from the Heat to the Lakers in 2004. His latest negotiations made for a trying time, but Odom is happy he will be starting his sixth season with the Lakers.
“It’s more of a relief. It’s a different kind of anticipation,” Odom said. “But I’m ready to get back in the gym and work hard to try to win another championship.”
Times staff writer Mike Bresnahan contributed to this report.
BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX
the Odom deal
* -- With team option for fourth year
Lamar Odom’s 2008-09 season
*--* G GS MIN FG% 3P% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG STL BLK TO PF PTS *--*
*--* 78 32 29.7 492 320 623 2.3 5.9 8.2 2.6 1.0 1.3 1.77 3.0 11.3 *--*
*--* 23 5 32.0 524 514 613 2.8 6.3 9.1 1.8 0.7 1.4 1.70 3.3 12.3 *--*