Clippers' decision partially based on 'character'

Updated: August 25, 2003, 8:28 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

LOS ANGELES -- Lamar Odom is free to join the Miami Heat after the Los Angeles Clippers refused Monday to match the Heat's offer worth nearly $67 million.

"In the final analysis, the decision was based on issues of character and other risks involved,'' Clippers vice president Elgin Baylor said in a statement.

Heat spokesman Tim Donovan declined to comment until the team received official notice from the NBA that the Clippers dropped their offer. The offer sheet expires at 11:59 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

After more than two decades without signing a high-priced free agent or retaining a marquee player, Clippers owner Donald Sterling has committed $124 million this off-season by matching offers to restricted free agents Elton Brand (six years, $82 million from Miami) and Corey Maggette (six years, $42 million from Utah).

Letting Odom go to Miami represented significant savings for Sterling, but it made Odom the fourth significant L.A. free agent this summer -- along with center Michael Olowokandi, point guard Andre Miller and sharpshooter Eric Piatkowski -- to leave the club without compensation.

Odom averaged 14.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 49 games last season. In 230 career games, he has averaged 15.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists.

Taken by the Clippers with the No. 4 draft pick in 1999, Odom was suspended for five games in March 2001, then again for eight games that November for violating the league's anti-drug policy.

Odom, 23, has also frequently been sidelined by injuries over the past two years. He missed 45 games last season with wrist and ankle injuries after playing in just 29 games the previous season.

The 6-foot-10, 221-pounder signed a six-year offer sheet worth $67 million with the Heat on Aug. 11. The Clippers had 15 days to match the offer, as they did to keep Elton Brand and Corey Maggette earlier this summer.

Matching the Odom offer, however, came with potential risks as well, besides taking Sterling's summer spending to an unprecedented $190 million. Because of Odom's recent injury history, and two substance-abuse suspensions in four NBA seasons, he represents a $65 million gamble for the Heat.

"I'm just trying to let the Clippers understand it's my time to move on," Odom told ESPN.com earlier this month, saying his main motivation is the chance to realize his long-held goal of playing for Heat coach Pat Riley. "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."

Senior NBA writer Marc Stein and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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