Odom seeks fresh start with Miami, Riley

Updated: August 10, 2003, 2:54 AM ET
By Marc Stein | ESPN.com

Lamar Odom is flying back Sunday to Los Angeles to tell Los Angeles Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor directly what Odom has been saying publicly for the past week.

Odom's message: "It's time for me to go elsewhere."

Elsewhere, of course, is Miami. Odom describes playing for Heat coach Pat Riley as his NBA destiny. Yet it's a destiny the Clippers control, because Odom's status as a restricted free agent gives L.A. a 15-day window to match any offer he gets.

"I want to see Elgin and tell him face-to-face," Odom said Saturday in an interview with ESPN.com, as he awaits a formal offer sheet from the Heat.

"As soon I get back, I'm going to try to get him on the phone, and on Monday morning I'll be right in his office to tell him," Odom continued. "I'm just trying to let the Clippers understand it's my time to move on. It's in my best interests and it's in their best interests.

"I'm looking forward to a fresh new start, playing for the Heat and coming back home to the East Coast. 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."

First, Odom must secure a signed offer sheet from Miami, which the Heat has withheld until now knowing that the Clippers have made it clear they intend to match any offer Odom receives. Baylor himself has informed Odom of those plans and, by all indications, L.A. has not changed its stance.

Odom is attempting to convince the Clippers that it would be a mistake to "bring a disgruntled employee back," as he told The Miami Herald in Thursday's editions. In Saturday's conversation, Odom said he is simply trying to "let the Clippers know how I feel as honestly as possible."

After two trips to Miami and separate conversations with Riley, Odom said he expects to have a signed offer sheet "in the next 24 to 48 hours -- hopefully by Monday." He is seeking at least $60 million over six years. The Clippers have offered Odom a three-year deal worth $24 million and contend that they will match any Miami offer, just as they did when the Heat signed Elton Brand to a six-year, $82 million offer sheet last month.

The strategy has proven successful twice already this off-season for the Clippers.

After a history of contentious contract negotiations, without a single marquee free agent retained or signed in the club's history, Clippers owner Donald T. Sterling matched offers to Brand and Corey Maggette ($42 million over six years) instead of haggling over the terms himself. Given Odom's status as a longtime Sterling favorite, and with Gilbert Arenas choosing to sign an offer sheet with Washington instead of L.A., the expectation remains that even a $10 million-a-season pitch from Miami for Odom would be matched.

Knowing that, Miami has tried to convince the Clippers to participate in an Odom sign-and-trade, on the premise that L.A. might be more willing to let Odom go if it gets something back. The Clippers, though, have shown zero interest in a sign-and-trade, according to league sources.

If the Heat decides that an offer sheet is futile, Odom has two options. Resume contract negotiations with the Clippers or sign a one-year tender with L.A. that would make the 23-year-old an unrestricted free agent next summer.

This already ranks as the Clippers' most successful off-season in team history, but they insist that the plan going into the summer was to re-sign Brand, Maggette and Odom at the minimum. If Miami does elect to extend Odom the lucrative offer sheet, it will be hoping that L.A. changes its mind after Sterling spent an unprecedented $124 million on the first two players and in the wake of Odom's public pleas to play for Riley.

In his interview with the Herald, Odom announced that he considers his relationship with the Clippers "over" and that "I don't see myself playing for any other coach than Riley next year." In Saturday's interview, Odom scaled back his comments slightly, but reiterated his wish to leave the franchise that selected him No. 4 overall in the 1999 draft.

"When I was coming to the NBA, I thought I was going to be playing for the Miami Heat and I thought Pat Riley was going to be my coach," Odom said. "A team took back their promise with what they were supposed to do with the Heat (on draft night). Me and Coach Riley, we have a great relationship for two guys who haven't come together like we were supposed to."

Odom admitted Saturday that he hasn't played to his full potential in his first four seasons, with his career derailed by injuries and two substance-abuse suspensions.

"But I don't think I can do it here," Odom said of the Clippers.

"It's not my doing to rip them or downgrade anybody. I don't want to do that because people could do the same with me. I did it a little bluntly (in the newspaper interview), and that might be wrong to some people, but I'm just trying to let them know how I feel."

Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here. Also, click here to send a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.

Marc Stein | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
• Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics

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