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Clippers Grant Odom's Wish

Small forward who longed to join the Miami Heat does just that after six-year, $63-million offer sheet is not matched.

August 26, 2003|Elliott Teaford | Times Staff Writer

After two weeks of soul searching, the Clippers decided against matching the Miami Heat's six-year, $63-million offer sheet to Lamar Odom, parting ways Monday with their oft-injured and oft-troubled small forward.

The Clippers said the risk of paying Odom so much money for so many seasons outweighed the potential reward.

The team will have about $8 million under the salary cap to invest in next summer's free-agent class, which could be headed by Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett.

Odom, 23, had career averages of 15.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists in four seasons with the Clippers, but he played only 78 games the last two seasons because of serious wrist and ankle injuries. He also served two NBA drug suspensions in the last three seasons, totaling 13 games.

"After long and careful consideration, we have elected not to match the offer sheet presented to us by Lamar Odom," Clipper General Manager Elgin Baylor said in a statement. "In the final analysis, the decision was based on issues of character and other risks involved."

As recently as a month ago, Odom said he wanted to remain with the Clippers, who had offered him $24 million over the next three seasons.

Apparently disgusted by the offer and well before the Heat had signed him to an offer sheet Aug. 11, Odom began referring to himself as a "disgruntled employee." He indicated that he could not realize his full potential playing for the Clippers. Odom also said it was his dream to play for Heat Coach Pat Riley.

A second Clipper official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, went a step further in criticizing Odom's words and deeds over the last month.

"He went so far with his rhetoric that it actually said more about what kind of person he is," the official said.

Odom was the last of the Clippers' four restricted free agents whose status was resolved for next season.

The Clippers invested $124 million in retaining power forward Elton Brand and swingman Corey Maggette, with Brand getting $82 million over the next six years and Maggette $42 million for the same period.

The Clippers also signed Coach Mike Dunleavy to a four-year deal worth $10 million to replace Alvin Gentry, who was fired March 3.

However, the Clippers declined to match the Denver Nuggets' $51-million offer to point guard Andre Miller and were unable to re-sign unrestricted free agents Michael Olowokandi, Eric Piatkowski and Sean Rooks.

Olowokandi signed a three-year deal worth $16.2 million with the Minnesota Timberwolves, which was almost $2 million less than the Clippers offered. Last summer, he turned down a seven-year contract for roughly $7.5 million per season.

The Clippers' opening night starting lineup could look like this: Brand, Maggette and Melvin Ely, a second-year pro, up front, with Quentin Richardson and Keyon Dooling or Marko Jaric in the backcourt.

Key reserves figure to be rookie center Chris Kaman, 38-year-old forward-center Olden Polynice, second-year forward Chris Wilcox and free-agent guard Eddie House, who averaged 7.5 points last season with the Heat.

In Miami, Odom will join a team that finished 17 games out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, lost two more games than the Clippers' total of 55 in 2002-03 and continues to struggle to find a face in the post-Alonzo Mourning era.

Like the Clippers, the Heat is without a proven big man, looking to depend on swingman Eddie Jones, forward Brian Grant and guards Caron Butler, a second-year player, and Dwyane Wade, a rookie.

The Heat declined to comment, but is expected to do so today. Odom could not be reached Monday.

"I'm looking forward to a fresh start, playing for the Heat and coming back home to the East Coast," Odom, a New York native, told ESPN.com last week. "I think it's about time that I get my career off the ground and I think Miami is where I need to go. Hopefully, the Clippers will understand where I'm coming from."

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Odom as a Clipper

Clipper statistics for Lamar Odom, 23. He was the fourth pick of the 1999 NBA draft:

*--* Season FG% FT% Pts Reb Ast 1999-00 438 719 16.6 7.8 4.2 2000-01 460 679 17.2 7.8 5.2 2001-02 419 656 13.1 6.1 5.9 2002-03 439 777 14.6 6.7 3.6 Career 444 709 15.9 7.3 4.6

*--*

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