Odom Signs — Watching the Sausage Get Made

Kurt —  July 30, 2009

NBA: MAY 25 Western Conference Finals - Lakers at Nuggets - Game 4
Sometimes, those age-old adages are around because they’re accurate. Like the one often referred to when talking about congressional legislation — everyone loves sausage but you don’t want to see it get made.

Welcome to the Lamar Odom negotiations.

We all love how it ended (at least Lakers fans) — four years, 33 million with a Laker option on the fourth year. That works out to an average of $8.25 million a year, which before this entire process started is about what I and a number of people thought was the fair market value for Odom. Odom gave a little, the Lakers gave a little, everyone is happy. With him back in the fold, and the Lakers as title favorites, this is some tasty sausage.

But it was hard to watch get made.

What started out as a quiet negotiation became more and more public as Odom’s camp tried to use Portland (an alleged five year, $40 million offer, which Odom’s agent said later may not have been real) and most often Miami as leverage. Miami seemed realistic on some levels — it was a five-year deal (albeit for a couple million less per season), it’s a state without income tax, Odom has played in and likes Miami, D-Wade was very public in his lobbying. It made a good bluff (and may not have completely been one).

But Buss loves high stakes poker, and this is about as high stakes as it gets — millions in luxury tax and possible championships hanging in the balance. He made his read that Odom wanted to be here and would take his offer over being somewhere else. He pulled an offer out of frustration but he largely stuck to his guns.

Both sides played this pretty well, trying to leverage their positions and get as much as they could out of it.

It was the fans that were buffeted about, feeling like some feudal serf caught between two warring kings and just wanting peace and a happy outcome. It was the fans that fed most off the leaked information, really put out for leverage in the talks. It was the fans that over-analyzed every little bit of information.

Anyone who has been in a negotiation — buying a house, through work, at a bar at closing time — knows it is not a pretty process. Most basketball contract negotiations are like that, ugly and not something you want to be in the middle of. This was a rare glimpse for us fans into that world.

And come next June, we will have forgotten all about it, because the sausage will taste good.


With the end of the Odom saga, I leave on vacation for 10 days (it’s a coincidence, I swear). I am heading East, spending some time on Martha’s Vineyard and in Boston (even taking in a minor league game at Fenway Park). As much as I hate its basketball team, Boston is a great city. Because I apparently don’t value the safety of myself or my family, I have my Lakers championship hat and other gear packed and ready to be worn.

Some of the regulars here will be putting up posts over the next week, so there will be more to talk about than Sun’s contract. Treat them with respect and when I get back it will be time to delve into some “Lakers I miss” columns and more off-season fun.