After getting trounced in the Western Conference semifinals for the second consecutive season, the Los Angeles Lakers franchise is undoubtedly wondering what direction it should take on its path back to the top of the NBA mountain. Now that its season is over, the organization must begin the planning stages for the next phase in its pursuit of an 18th title in franchise history.
Part of the Lakers plans for next season may involve peering into the past and at 2011 NBA Sixth Man of the Year, Lamar Odom, who is now under contract with the Dallas Mavericks but was dismissed from the team in April. Since his departure, Odom's presence has been missed in the Lakers locker room and on the court. However, he is not the Odom of old -- he's simply an old Lamar Odom.
Furthermore, any hopes of Lamer Odom returning to the Lakers are slim to none. The Lakers have very few options in free agency and the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement makes surpassing the luxury tax level even more expensive for franchises.
The Mavericks are reportedly shopping Odom on the trade market but now that teams know the relationship with Odom and the Mavericks is so rocky, the trade rumors will be thin for a player past his prime who can be acquired for far less if the Mavs decide to buyout his contract. Not only is Odom due $8.2 million next season but he's also developed a reputation in Dallas as an overly emotional locker room malcontent.
It's easy to forget that Odom forced his way out of Los Angeles after the deal for Chris Paul was nixed by NBA commissioner David Stern. Then, after getting the trade he requested to Dallas, he continued to butt heads with Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle and owner Mark Cuban. He also appeared lethargic on the court, his production dipped to career lows and he was dismissed from the team at halftime of an April 7 game by Cuban. Ultimately his own teammates voted not to include Odom in their share of playoff money.
If Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak has his way, the only path for Odom's return to the NBA in Los Angeles is if the Clippers decide they need a lanky, passive small forward to help take them to the next level. That's not happening.
After getting hammered by a much younger, more athletic Thunder team, bringing Lamar Odom back would not be wise. It may be nostalgic for Odom - and wife Khloe Kardashian -- to return to Los Angeles but it won't solve the team's age crisis. The Lakers are one of the league's oldest team and are not getting any younger.
The Thunder and Bulls will be getting older but they'll get more experience and closer to their primes. The Lakers need offensive production and explosive athletes. If there was one former Laker, the franchise should be clamoring for it should be former guard Shannon Brown, who is an unrestricted free agent after one up and down season in Phoenix.
He won't be a game changer but he may be willing to accept the mini mid-level exception the Lakers can offer, which maxes out at $3 million and is only slightly less than the one-year, 3.5 million deal, he signed with the Phoenix Suns in December.
Lamar Odom was a valuable part of two championship teams in Los Angeles. However, despite the clamoring of ex-teammates and fans, he shouldn't be a part of any Lakers efforts to take back the Larry O'Brien Trophy for the same reason the organization was right to ignore Bryant's request to trade Bynum for Jason Kidd during the summer of 2007. Odom's final contribution to the Lakers may have been the $8.9 million trade exception they acquired from Dallas, which they can still use.
Feelings can't get in the way of business. Odom's feelings went haywire when he cried on ESPN Radio after hearing news of his trade to New Orleans and he never recovered. He may never recover. Odom appears to be the classic archetype of an athlete in decline.
If the Lakers want to climb out of their hole, they may want to steer clear of Odom's sinking ship.