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HELENE ELLIOTT

Derek Fisher takes a shot at keeping Lamar Odom as a Lakers teammate

Guard says other Lakers also have contacted the free-agent forward to urge him to re-sign with the team.

July 22, 2009|HELENE ELLIOTT

It seemed like a clever gimmick when Lakers guard Derek Fisher, actor David Arquette and fast-food icon Ronald McDonald heaved 33-foot shots from a third-story balcony at L.A. Live on Tuesday to publicize the Lakers 3 on 3 Basketball Tournament to be held Aug. 14-16 and benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern California.

Under difficult circumstances, Fisher gave it his all. He tried flinging. He tried finessing. He shot from a running start. He shot from a standing start.

Though known for his clutch long-range shooting, he couldn't get anything to fall and had to watch avid Lakers fan Arquette make the only shot while TV cameras were rolling.

In an ideal world, Lamar Odom would have come off the bench to hit a big shot and restore the Lakers' supremacy, as he did so often during their last title run.

"We want him back badly," Fisher said, "and I hope we can accomplish that in the next couple days."

For now Odom remains an unsigned free agent, a week after owner Jerry Buss withdrew an offer that would have been worth $9 million per season over four seasons (three of them guaranteed) or $10 million per season over three seasons.

Miami, which can offer Odom up to $34 million over five seasons and potential state income tax benefits, supposedly has been flirting with Odom. Nothing seems imminent on that front, and a Lakers spokesman said Tuesday nothing had changed regarding Odom from the club's end.

Nothing has changed from Fisher's perspective, either.

"There's no question that we need him back. We want him back," Fisher said. "If those things are in place, hopefully we can just go and get this done and put this behind us and start working on 2009-10."

According to Fisher, Odom's value goes well beyond the impressive 12.3 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists Odom averaged while playing 32 minutes per game in 23 playoff games, five of them starts.

Fisher looks past Odom's occasional frustrating, not-all-there performances and sees Odom's easygoing manner adding levity to the locker room.

He saw Odom adjust to playing a reserve role and applauded Odom's ability to move into the power forward slot and become a rebounding machine during Andrew Bynum's frequent postseason bouts with foul trouble.

Asked about the impact new acquisition Ron Artest will have on the Lakers, Fisher framed his response in reference to Odom's absence, saying Artest would provide strength and size up front "for the untimely lack of re-signing of Lamar."

Yes, Fisher wants Odom back, and he said he's not alone. He said several other Lakers have called, texted, tweeted and otherwise technologically urged Odom to come back to the fold.

The question is whether Buss, angry that Odom was slow to respond to the club's last offer, will make another one. If he does, Odom should grab it.

That can't happen fast enough for Fisher, whose character and leadership make his opinion count for a lot.

"As much credit as sometimes I get -- probably more than I should -- as far as my importance to the team from a spiritual perspective in our locker room and whatnot, I think Lamar is equally important," Fisher said.

"His personality and the way he carries himself. . . . Lamar is a very caring person and a lot of times he cares more about other people than himself. To have a guy like that in the locker room, a lot of times he's an example for a lot of other guys on our team.

"And what he went through this past year, going to the bench -- and I mean he's an all-star caliber player -- and in a contract year to come off the bench and he'd never done it before in his career, he did it as well as anybody could ever do it and his team won a championship at the same time."

But that doesn't guarantee anything, as Fisher knows after his adventures with free agency after the 2003-04 season. The promise of a starting job with Golden State lured him north, but it didn't work out and he was traded to Utah before returning to the Lakers in 2007.

"Nothing really surprises you in this business," he said. "I was at my basketball camp today and like three kids ran up to me and told me they heard I got traded to Miami. I was like, 'I don't know. I could have got traded to Miami.' "

He didn't. And he hopes Odom won't end up there, either, and will soon be back in purple and gold.

"I don't think anybody on our team, or any of our coaches or even management has any desire to see Lamar not back as a Laker next year," Fisher said, "but the NBA is a business and contract negotiations are a huge part of it. Sometimes they take longer than others but you have to accept it for what it is.

"I'm hopeful that fans understand that from Lamar and his agent's perspective in terms of whatever they're going through.

"But I think it will be done sooner rather than later, hopefully. I've very rarely seen a free agent of Lamar's caliber slide into August without having a contract done, so hopefully it will be done soon."

--

helene.elliott@latimes.com

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