Lamar Odom cleaned out his locker Thursday and left the Lakers' training facility, perhaps for the last time as part of the franchise that has employed him the last five years.
Odom will be an unrestricted free agent July 1, one of two forwards the Lakers hope to re-sign to keep their frontcourt intact.
Trevor Ariza is younger and has plenty of potential, but Odom can play three positions and provide much-needed backup help whenever Andrew Bynum gets in foul trouble.
The Lakers hope to sign both Ariza and Odom, but owner Jerry Buss will first have to evaluate how much to offer Odom, a non-starter on a championship team.
Odom was on the Lakers' books for $14.1 million this season, though he was actually paid $11.4 million because he received some of the money in a trade kicker when the Lakers acquired him from Miami in July 2004.
The Lakers have already committed $74 million toward eight players on next season's payroll. Buss will pay up to $7 million in luxury taxes for this past season's payroll, but he would have to go much deeper into luxury-tax territory, perhaps $20 million on top of a $90-million payroll, to re-sign both Odom and Ariza. It would move the Lakers from a top-five payroll to the top payroll in the league.
Odom turns 30 in November. Will he be celebrating his birthday as a member of the Lakers?
"I thought I did my job this year -- come off the bench, do whatever it takes," Odom said as players continued to have exit meetings with Lakers Coach Phil Jackson and General Manager Mitch Kupchak. "I had to play well and I played well. We had to win and we won. Hopefully, everything will just work out and I can stay home."
Odom had a solid playoff run, averaging 12.3 points a game, third-best on the team, and 9.1 rebounds, second-best on the team. He was particularly impressive in the last two games of the Western Conference finals, helping the Lakers successfully emerge from a 2-2 deadlock with Denver by averaging 19.5 points and 11 rebounds in Games 5 and 6.
"I think he's done everything that was asked of him over the last five seasons, from playing small forward to point guard to power forward to coming off the bench," said Odom's agent, Jeff Schwartz. "And as much as he's made it clear he wants to remain a Laker, it's going to depend on their offer and what the market holds for him. The bottom line is, Lamar has shown he's a winner and that's valuable."
Odom has been part of some impromptu celebrations since the Lakers won the championship. He went to a Los Angeles restaurant where Lakers fans stood at their tables and started clapping when they saw him arrive.
He also went to the grocery store and experienced the same thing, "about 200 people in the supermarket, clapping," he said.
During his exit meeting, Odom was asked to "stay in shape" during the off-season, he said.
"They know I'm a socialite," he said. "We win a championship, I'm 29, decent-looking. When we go out, I'm well-received, know what I'm saying? They want me to take care of myself and sleep correctly, stay in the weight room and stay strong. That's a good sign. That means they want me back."
Bynum to be better?
Bynum, the Lakers' big man of the future, averaged only 6.3 points and 3.7 rebounds in the playoffs, a substantial drop from the 14.3 points and eight rebounds he averaged in 50 regular-season games.
He said he probably returned too quickly from a torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee that caused him to miss 32 regular-season games.
"I wanted to make it back, so that's why I took to the court maybe a little bit before my trainer wanted me to," he said. "I just felt like I wanted to experience the playoffs. Even though I didn't play my best ball, I still got to understand the next level. Five minutes in a playoff game is like 15 to 18 minutes in a regular-season game because the intensity is just that high."
Bynum said he wanted to return to his "former self" by strengthening his knee during the off-season. Bynum, who turns 22 in October, made $2.8 million this season in the final year of his rookie contract. He will make $12.5 million next season, the first year of a four-year, $57.4-million contract extension.
And what of Brown?
Odom and Ariza aren't the Lakers' only unrestricted free agents. Reserve guard Shannon Brown made $796,000 this last season and is expected to get looks from other teams.
The Lakers are interested in retaining him, but it remains to be seen how much they'll spend with two ball-handling guards already under contract next season: Derek Fisher ($5 million) and Jordan Farmar ($1.9 million).
"I think they're very interested in bringing me back," said Brown, who has played on four teams in three NBA seasons. "I want to be back. That's really all I can say about that."
Brown was scoreless in three games of the Finals because of Fisher's increased playing time, though he had better stats in earlier playoff rounds.
Brown, 23, averaged six points and 14.9 minutes against Houston and 7.2 points and 17.4 minutes in the first round against Utah.