Sources: Odom leaning toward signing with Heat

Lamar Odom(notes) is leaning strongly toward accepting the Miami Heat’s contract offer and leaving the Los Angeles Lakers, multiple sources with knowledge of the talks said.

Odom has not reached a final decision, the sources said, but there is growing belief he will ultimately return to the Heat unless the Lakers improve their current offer.

“It’s close, but it’s not done,” said one source.

Lakers officials and Odom’s representatives resumed talking after a weeklong standoff that began when Jerry Buss, the team’s owner, withdrew a four-year, $36 million offer that guaranteed $30 million. Sources close to Odom said that while the two sides have since talked, Buss is now offering less than the Lakers’ previous proposal.

Odom could sign a five-year, $34 million with the Heat or take a four-year contract that would give him the option to become a free agent in three seasons and seek a more lucrative deal. He also would not have to pay state income tax in Florida.

Odom, who will turn 30 on Nov. 6, played for the Heat during the 2003-04 season – the only season in his 10-year career that he didn’t spend in Los Angeles – and has maintained a good relationship with Dwyane Wade(notes).

Odom’s departure would be a huge loss for the Lakers and an unexpected gift for the Western Conference’s other top contenders. He averaged 11.4 points and 8.2 rebounds last season, and played well during the Lakers’ run to the championship despite being bothered by back spasms. The Lakers replaced Trevor Ariza(notes) with Ron Artest(notes) this summer, but Odom’s length and versatility made him a difficult matchup off the bench for opposing teams.