Ball Don't Lie - NBA

It's a great line to toss out, especially with a bit of wry sarcasm, so we like to save it for only the best of occasions. This is one of those occasions:

My fellow Americans (and Skeets as well), our long, national nightmare is over.

Lamar Odom has signed a contract to play basketball next season.

And for two seasons after that, with a team option for a fourth year. That option belongs to the Los Angeles Lakers, because the Los Angeles Lakers were the team that Lamar Odom(notes) signed with.

Not the Miami Heat, or Portland Trail Blazers; two outfits that would have flourished with Odom in the lineup, but the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.

It's a suitable ending to an annoying month of free agent machinations, with Odom's dalliances ranking as the chief annoyance.

From the outset, it was clear that teams were underrating the 29-year old forward, who backed himself into a corner by repeatedly professing his desire to remain a Laker throughout his contract year in 2008-09.

Odom's candid nature (for shame!) and anti-stat hoarding ways possibly cost him a few million, but he also gets to stay in the city he wants to, working on the team he wants to, for a reported four years and $33 million (should the Lakers pick up that team option).

And while we rip Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss for playing a hard juice card with Odom when he didn't have to, especially when Odom essentially sacrificed his own juice card for the good of the Lakers last season, the fact remains that Buss is under no obligation to spend his money as we sit fit. And not even counting coach Phil Jackson's eight-figure salary, Buss' Laker payroll for players alone will spiral well over $100 million once all the luxury tax costs are factored in.

What does he get from this? A likely champion, if everything goes right. An athletic team on both ends that is pleasing to the eye, and appealing to the TV audience and sponsors. A team that not only will play on Christmas, but also well into June. Again, if everything goes right.

And Lamar Odom helps everything go right. He's one of the team's best help defenders. He's the team's best rebounder. Its most creative passer. He runs the offense with Kobe Bryant(notes) on the bench, something that no other Laker save for Derek Fisher(notes) (getting on in years) and Bryant can do properly. If Odom split to Miami or Portland, the Lakers would have had a right mess with the starting backcourt on the bench, or even with one out on the floor.

It's a great deal, for all sides. The Lakers get their do-everything, team-first forward at a fair price, Odom gets to stay in Los Angeles, and over seven million a year to play basketball for the champs is about right. I rate the guy as an eight figures sort of player, I'm sure most of you feel the same way, but the market is the market. So it goes.

And so we move on. Tomorrow is the last day of July, a month that brought us some wacked-out free agent machinations, some surprising twists, some appealing turns, and a whole lot of fodder for BDL to bash through.

August? Get ready for a real, real close examination of Ramon Sessions(notes). We might have to take up shop in the cat's front lawn.

That's the NBA. From one nightmare to the next.

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