- Marc Stein, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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LAS VEGAS -- Amid a growing sense around the league that the Miami Heat have a real shot at stealing Lamar Odom away from the Los Angeles Lakers, Odom is expected to take the weekend to ponder his next move.
Sources with knowledge of Odom's thinking told ESPN.com that he has not abandoned hope of resuscitating serious negotiations with L.A. after Lakers owner Jerry Buss angrily pulled a three-year, $27 million offer off the table earlier this week.
According to a broadcast report Friday night from longtime L.A. television anchor Jim Hill, Odom called Buss directly on Thursday in an attempt to reignite talks.
The Heat, meanwhile, have made it clear that they are prepared to offer the richest contract they can in an attempt to convince Odom to stop haggling with the Lakers, with the Dallas Mavericks also eager to offer the same fallback option.
Heat star Dwyane Wade made a public plea Friday for Odom to return to the franchise that sent him to the Lakers in the Shaquille O'Neal deal in the summer of 2004, announcing that "we want him back home."
According to sources close to the process, Odom has been apprised that he can sign a five-year Heat deal consuming all of the team's mid-level exception, which would be worth $34 million and include the option to return to free agency after three years and negotiate a larger contract with Miami.
With the Lakers possessing Odom's Larry Bird rights, Miami can't match the $9 million annual salary that sources say he and the Lakers agreed to last week before talks collapsed. But the difference between the first three years of a Heat contract -- worth nearly $19 million -- and the $27 million over three years offered by L.A. might not be as wide as it appears. It's estimated that the absence of state taxes in Florida would represent close to an extra $1 million per season of take-home pay for Odom.
ESPN.com reported Tuesday night that Odom and the Lakers had reached an accord on a per-season wage of $9 million, but Odom balked at L.A.'s unwillingness to extend an offer spanning more than three years in length,
The Los Angeles Times, in reporting that Buss had pulled the offer, said Buss grew impatient after a few days that he didn't receive a firm response from Odom's camp. Yet one source told ESPN.com that Odom was never given a deadline to accept or pass.
Lakers spokesman John Black acknowledged Tuesday to the Times that "talks have broken down for the time being" but conceded that a resumption in negotiations is "within the realm of possibility." That remains what many rival teams camped at the NBA's annual summer league in Las Vegas expect, given Odom's importance during the Lakers' championship run last season and the fact that the only apparent issue between the sides is believed to be contract length.
The possibility exists that Buss has simply decided that he is no longer amenable to absorbing the luxury-tax implications of even a three-year deal worth Odom, but it would be an undeniable blow for the Lakers to report to training camp in October without Odom and Trevor Ariza after their contributions to the 15th championship in franchise history.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, approached by ESPN.com in Vegas on Thursday, said he could not publicly discuss the Odom situation. Attempts to reach Odom and agent Jeff Schwartz have been unsuccessful.
"I want Lamar to do what's best for him and his family because we love him as family," Wade said Friday in a phone interview with the Associated Press to discuss his new shoe deal with Brand Jordan.
"But on the other hand we want him back home... to come home. His house is still there. It'd be exciting to see what happens."
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported Friday that Heat president Pat Riley, addressing season-ticket holders in a two-day session that was closed to media, revealed that he is also monitoring Carlos Boozer's status with the Utah Jazz but had not yet made a trade approach for the Team USA power forward.
As ESPN.com reported Tuesday night, Odom's unexpected availability combined with a trade for Boozer would flank Wade with two quality forwards and enable Miami to re-sign Boozer in the summer of 2010 without needing salary-cap space because the Heat would own Boozer's Bird rights. It's thought that acquiring Odom and Boozer this summer would greatly enhance Miami's chances of convincing Wade to sign a long-term deal to stay with the Heat, after Wade announced recently that he wants to be surrounded with more proven help before committing his future to Riley.
Sources maintain that Odom, if he can't go back to the Lakers, would strongly favor a return to the Heat over a move to Dallas or Portland. The Blazers once again have cap space to spend now that Utah has matched their four-year, $32 million offer sheet to Paul Millsap, but it is not yet known if they plan to lodge a bid for Odom similar to the five-year offer in the region of $50 million that Hedo Turkoglu accepted from Portland earlier this month and then walked away from to sign with Toronto.
Odom, who turns 30 in November, has made it clear over the past several months that he has no desire to leave the Lakers, whom he joined when L.A. broke up its three-peat duo of O'Neal and Kobe Bryant by trading O'Neal to Miami for Odom, Caron Butler and Brian Grant. He made $14.1 million last season to complete the six-year, $63 million contract he received from Miami in the summer of 2003.
Although he initially chafed at his move to the bench, Odom ultimately flourished as a sixth man, averaging 12.3 points, 9.1 rebounds and 32 minutes per game during the playoffs, when he frequently wound up partnering with Pau Gasol in the Lakers' frontcourt since young center Andrew Bynum was still developing.
Replacing Ariza with the more physical Ron Artest this offseason has given the Lakers someone to absorb at least some of Odom's minutes and responsibilities if he does leave. But Odom's departure would be undoubtedly celebrated by other playoff contenders in the West, since it's the luxury of having three long-limbed big men to flank Bryant -- Odom, Gasol and Bynum -- that makes L.A. so unique. Odom also ranks as one of Artest's closest friends in the game, so his continued presence would theoretically help Lakers coach Phil Jackson and Bryant manage the mercurial Artest.
Asked in a Monday telephone interview with the Times why a deal was not yet done, Odom said: "I don't know. That's why there are negotiations. I don't know. Of course I hope they can get it done. It's negotiations. Both sides are going to give and take. That's part of it. I don't know how long it's going to take. ... The Lakers have been too good to me to rub people over there the wrong way. The Lakers have been nothing but great to me, and I want to keep the relationship great."
In the event that the talks are not resuscitated, L.A. would have to count on the unpredictable Artest and the up-and-down Bynum to fill the void. And Odom, in that scenario, would almost certainly be returning to Wade's side after they led Miami to a 42-40 record in 2003-04 when Wade was rookie.
"Lamar already knows how I feel," Wade said. "I really don't know how to feel. He's really taken time to deal with it, sit back. It's a very important decision in his life. It could be about where he ends his career."
In 10 seasons, Odom has averaged 15.1 points and 8.8 rebounds.
"Lamar and I always had a great relationship," Wade said. "He's always been the guy, one of the guys, that I thought really helped me as a young player."
The Times has reported that Odom had actually been presented with two offers by the Lakers -- $30 million over three years and $36 million over four -- but sources with knowledge of the talks dispute that, saying that L.A.'s best offer topped out at $27 million over three years.
"There are specifics behind why we pulled it, but that's not something we're going to get into," Black told the Associated Press on Wednesday.
Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
The Heat have discussed a Lamar Odom deal that would approach the $9 million salary the free-agent forward nearly agreed to last week with the Lakers, reports say.