Tag:Lamar Odom
Posted on: April 27, 2010 4:49 pm
 

Lakers need more than Kobe

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – If you ask Phil Jackson – and we did – nothing has changed for the Lakers as they face a must-win Game 5 Tuesday night against a team that has run them ragged and put the defending champs in a precarious 2-2 tie in their first-round series. 

“Same old basketball team,” Jackson said on the Lakers’ practice court Tuesday. “Same old group of guys.” 

Well, not really. The last guy on the court shooting jumpers, Ron Artest, had notably shaved his head. No more Dennis Rodman lookalike routine. 

“Just a new look,” said the Lakers’ defensive specialist, who along with his teammates needed a change of scenery – among other things – after going oh-for-Oklahoma City. 

The Lakers are facing the same situation – tied 2-2, with Game 5 at home – that was in front of them when they eventually beat the Rockets and Nuggets on their way to the Finals a year ago. But with Kobe Bryant’s sore knee, arthritic finger, and assorted other ailments – not to mention the Thunder’s speed and fast-breaking dominance in the past two games – there’s a sense that the Lakers are in more trouble now than they were in either of those aforementioned series. 

“I think you just have to go with what’s here,” Jackson said, downplaying the notion that anything useful can be drawn from those experiences. “The guys that have been here know that they can do it and they know what it’s like and what it takes. … It’s a veteran team that knows how to play in the playoffs.” 

Not in the past two games, it hasn’t. 

Defensively, the Lakers haven’t been able to slow down Russell Westbrook, who has consistently gotten the Lakers out of sorts with dribble-penetration. Offensively, the Lakers are settling for too many jump shots, failing to take advantage of the prominent size advantage owned by Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom. Bad, long shots lead to long rebounds, which have only accelerated the Thunder’s fast-breaking tendencies. Oklahoma City owned a 47-9 advantage in fastbreak points in Games 3 and 4. 

Jackson has been preaching better shot selection, more persistent inside play, and better floor balance as the elixirs for slowing Westbrook’s thundering herd. After shootaround Tuesday, he revealed two more factors that he believes will be crucial in keeping this series from slipping away. 

It went like this: I asked Jackson, “You wouldn’t consider any lineup or rotation changes at this point, would you?” And he replied, “Yes, I would.” 

Such as? 

“Try and get Lamar involved,” Jackson said. “He’s got to get involved in the game. If he plays well, we usually play well.” 

Jackson said he’s not contemplating any changes to the starting lineup for Game 5. But he would like to see some changes from Artest besides a haircut. 

Though Artest has done a good job holding Kevin Durant to 38 percent shooting in the series, his own poor shot selection and inability to take advantage of his post-up advantage against Durant on the other end of the floor has been one of many trouble spots for L.A. Though Durant would be no match for Artest in the post, Artest has hoisted 23 attempts from 3-point range in the series, making only three. 

“He does have real post-up skills,” Jackson said. “He’s got to get inside instead of standing on the outside. The post is a real free-for-all situation on our team. He’s gone in there a couple of times and has chosen not to stay in there. The last game we posted him up a couple of times in the second half to start with just to get him back in there.” 

And Kobe? Jackson wouldn’t say whether he expected a more aggressive approach from Bryant in Game 5. That sort of goes without saying after Bryant managed only 12 points on 10 shots in Game 4. But only to a point, if the Lakers know what is good for them. 

There are those who think everything the Lakers do has to be about Bryant all the time. Not in this case; it’s too early in the postseason for Bryant to carry the load by himself. 

There’s no question Bryant will be more aggressive, and will be more of a factor than he was in Game 4. But if the rest of the Lakers stand around and wait for him to take them to Oklahoma City up 3-2, they will be in very real danger of losing this game – and thus, the series. Instead of Kobe shooting all night, what the Lakers need is more assertiveness from Odom, more dominance from Gasol and Bynum, and smarter play from Artest – and yes, that includes backing the rail-thin Durant into the paint and beating him up. Artest needs to recognize that such a strategy would make his job of defending him on the other end infinitely easier. 

If the Lakers don’t do these things Tuesday night, they could be spending a long, miserable summer beating themselves up. 

For what it’s worth, I asked Artest what needed to change for the Lakers to regain control of this series. Take his response with a grain of salt, because one of the beauties of Artest is that he talks first and thinks later. But the words that followed my question shouldn’t exactly inspire confidence for Lakers fans. 

“Play the same way,” he said. 

Which is exactly what the Lakers can’t afford to do.
Posted on: April 27, 2010 4:49 pm
 

Lakers need more than Kobe

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – If you ask Phil Jackson – and we did – nothing has changed for the Lakers as they face a must-win Game 5 Tuesday night against a team that has run them ragged and put the defending champs in a precarious 2-2 tie in their first-round series. 

“Same old basketball team,” Jackson said on the Lakers’ practice court Tuesday. “Same old group of guys.” 

Well, not really. The last guy on the court shooting jumpers, Ron Artest, had notably shaved his head. No more Dennis Rodman lookalike routine. 

“Just a new look,” said the Lakers’ defensive specialist, who along with his teammates needed a change of scenery – among other things – after going oh-for-Oklahoma City. 

The Lakers are facing the same situation – tied 2-2, with Game 5 at home – that was in front of them when they eventually beat the Rockets and Nuggets on their way to the Finals a year ago. But with Kobe Bryant’s sore knee, arthritic finger, and assorted other ailments – not to mention the Thunder’s speed and fast-breaking dominance in the past two games – there’s a sense that the Lakers are in more trouble now than they were in either of those aforementioned series. 

“I think you just have to go with what’s here,” Jackson said, downplaying the notion that anything useful can be drawn from those experiences. “The guys that have been here know that they can do it and they know what it’s like and what it takes. … It’s a veteran team that knows how to play in the playoffs.” 

Not in the past two games, it hasn’t. 

Defensively, the Lakers haven’t been able to slow down Russell Westbrook, who has consistently gotten the Lakers out of sorts with dribble-penetration. Offensively, the Lakers are settling for too many jump shots, failing to take advantage of the prominent size advantage owned by Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom. Bad, long shots lead to long rebounds, which have only accelerated the Thunder’s fast-breaking tendencies. Oklahoma City owned a 47-9 advantage in fastbreak points in Games 3 and 4. 

Jackson has been preaching better shot selection, more persistent inside play, and better floor balance as the elixirs for slowing Westbrook’s thundering herd. After shootaround Tuesday, he revealed two more factors that he believes will be crucial in keeping this series from slipping away. 

It went like this: I asked Jackson, “You wouldn’t consider any lineup or rotation changes at this point, would you?” And he replied, “Yes, I would.” 

Such as? 

“Try and get Lamar involved,” Jackson said. “He’s got to get involved in the game. If he plays well, we usually play well.” 

Jackson said he’s not contemplating any changes to the starting lineup for Game 5. But he would like to see some changes from Artest besides a haircut. 

Though Artest has done a good job holding Kevin Durant to 38 percent shooting in the series, his own poor shot selection and inability to take advantage of his post-up advantage against Durant on the other end of the floor has been one of many trouble spots for L.A. Though Durant would be no match for Artest in the post, Artest has hoisted 23 attempts from 3-point range in the series, making only three. 

“He does have real post-up skills,” Jackson said. “He’s got to get inside instead of standing on the outside. The post is a real free-for-all situation on our team. He’s gone in there a couple of times and has chosen not to stay in there. The last game we posted him up a couple of times in the second half to start with just to get him back in there.” 

And Kobe? Jackson wouldn’t say whether he expected a more aggressive approach from Bryant in Game 5. That sort of goes without saying after Bryant managed only 12 points on 10 shots in Game 4. But only to a point, if the Lakers know what is good for them. 

There are those who think everything the Lakers do has to be about Bryant all the time. Not in this case; it’s too early in the postseason for Bryant to carry the load by himself. 

There’s no question Bryant will be more aggressive, and will be more of a factor than he was in Game 4. But if the rest of the Lakers stand around and wait for him to take them to Oklahoma City up 3-2, they will be in very real danger of losing this game – and thus, the series. Instead of Kobe shooting all night, what the Lakers need is more assertiveness from Odom, more dominance from Gasol and Bynum, and smarter play from Artest – and yes, that includes backing the rail-thin Durant into the paint and beating him up. Artest needs to recognize that such a strategy would make his job of defending him on the other end infinitely easier. 

If the Lakers don’t do these things Tuesday night, they could be spending a long, miserable summer beating themselves up. 

For what it’s worth, I asked Artest what needed to change for the Lakers to regain control of this series. Take his response with a grain of salt, because one of the beauties of Artest is that he talks first and thinks later. But the words that followed my question shouldn’t exactly inspire confidence for Lakers fans. 

“Play the same way,” he said. 

Which is exactly what the Lakers can’t afford to do.
Posted on: March 27, 2010 12:18 am
Edited on: March 27, 2010 12:21 am
 

Speed kills the Lakers again

OKLAHOMA CITY – With a signature win for a franchise on the rise, the Oklahoma City Thunder forced the defending champs to look into the future and cringe. 

The Lakers won’t know for a couple more weeks who they’ll be facing in the first round when they begin their title defense. If it’s the Thunder, who ran them out of the gym Friday night in a 91-75 rout, things could get a little uncomfortable. 

“It’s disappointing we didn’t respond to the challenge,” said Kobe Bryant, who had 11 points and nine turnovers before sitting the entire fourth quarter with fellow starters Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher. “That being said, when the playoffs start, it’s a different situation.” 

Probably so. But the Lakers were reminded Friday night of a weakness that was exposed in the conference semifinals last spring against the Rockets: Quick teams and quick guards cause them problems. 

A year ago, Ron Artest was playing for the Rockets and Aaron Brooks was forcing Lakers coach Phil Jackson to protect Derek Fisher in that matchup by putting quicker guards Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar on Brooks for long stretches. 

“The death knell was ringing for us last year in the Houston series when Brooks was lighting us up, and we actually had to make a change a little bit in our rotation,” Jackson said. “In fact, Derek helped us out by getting suspended a game, otherwise I would’ve stuck with him. But we started playing a little different, with speed on speed in that situation. Before you know it, Fish is right back in the lineup and contributing the rest of the playoffs, and I anticipate that’s going to be his role.” 

But on Friday night, it was Russell Westbrook playing the role of Aaron Brooks, and Jackson was never able to find an answer for his speed. Westbrook had 23 points and six assists on 10-for-13 shooting with only two turnovers – despite leaving the court briefly in the second quarter with what appeared to be a badly turned ankle that caused him to miss only three minutes. 

“I tried everybody but Sasha [Vujacic] in the backcourt on him,” Jackson said. “We tried to match him and see what we could get done. And he got in a zone there in that lane, and that’s his strength.” 

Kevin Durant, who had 28 points, called Westbrook “one of the toughest players I have ever played with. … He won the game for us. He was incredible.” Oklahoma City snapped a 12-game losing streak against the Lakers -- a streak that dates to the franchise's final days in Seattle.

These are problems the Lakers could very well have to contend with again in a month or so. The Thunder (44-27), currently in the sixth playoff spot, are only 1 1-2 games ahead of eighth-place Portland. San Antonio and Phoenix are in that mix, too. But until now, the Thunder were the biggest unknown – a team the Lakers hadn’t played since November, when L.A. handled them easily. 

This time, Oklahoma City built as much as a 33-point lead against a Lakers team that offered little resistance. What was billed as a marquee matchup of Kobe vs. Durant wound up being a layup drill with D.J. Mbenga getting posterized by Jeff Green and Durant on consecutive trips in the fourth quarter. 

“We know what San Antonio is; we know what they’re going to come out and do,” Jackson said. “We sort of have a dance that we do between us. This team is a young team with a lot energy, somebody we’re not aware of – we haven’t seen them in four months – and those things change up how you play.” 

Pau Gasol took issue with Jackson’s assessment that he played soft, but didn’t have much more to say. He discouraged the traveling analysts from reading too much into this one. 

“You don’t want to search too deeply into it,” Gasol said. “There’s nothing to search for.” 

Nor was Bryant in an inquisitive mood. Asked by a nemesis in the L.A. media if he got caught up in the competitive challenge of playing against Durant, Bryant shot him a puzzled look and said, “That’s a silly question.” 

Earlier, he was asked the same questions he’s asked every time the Lakers serve up a clunker like this: Do you have a feel for your team? Do you know what you have? 

“I will when the playoffs come around,” he said.
Posted on: January 23, 2010 12:37 am
 

Kobe hits the Lakers where it hurts

NEW YORK – The mental minefield Kobe Bryant began planting in Cleveland stretched all the way to New York, where the Lakers embarked on the second game of an eight-game road trip with his words still ringing in their ears.

Not tough enough.

Not part of their D.N.A.

Need to be hungrier.

“He’s a killer,” Lamar Odom was saying in the visiting locker room at Madison Square Garden Friday night. “He’s always gonna see things the way he sees them. He’s our leader, so if he sees that then we have to address it – and the way we address it is on the court. … Our problem right now is our cockiness, so he might be right.”

After the Lakers failed to close out a game in Cleveland Thursday night, thus surrendering the season series to the Cavs, Bryant wanted to leave no doubt about where the defending champs’ heads must be on this trip. The Lakers ran out to an 18-3 start, playing only four of their first 21 games on the road. Now they’re 0-2 against the Cavs and had lost five of their last six road games entering the Garden Friday night.

“Guys need to get going,” Bryant said after the Lakers beat the Knicks 115-105, “because I need them on this trip.”

Complacency has always been the enemy of these Lakers, and Bryant knows by now which buttons to push. He had stewed for months after the Lakers proved too soft to beat the Celtics in the ’08 Finals, and so he went for the jugular after the Cleveland loss by trotting out those hurtful buzzwords at the first sign of weakness.

Nobody in the NBA senses weakness like Bryant, and that goes for his teammates – not just his opponents.

Phil Jackson didn’t necessarily agree with Bryant’s assault on the Lakers’ lack of toughness, but it didn’t matter. The message was delivered. And it wasn’t just delivered to the notebook-toting masses. It was delivered in the locker room, too.

“We have to be prepared for teams to come after us,” Odom said. “I never knew how hard it was gonna be to try to repeat as champions. He does. So that might be his way of pushing us a little bit.”

Needing a push has been part of the problem, according to renowned locker-room philosopher Ron Artest. It was Artest who was brought to L.A. to stop LeBron James, and he willingly admitted Friday night that he’s 0-for-2. On Christmas Day, LeBron scored 26 in a 102-87 Cleveland victory and Artest fell down some stairs at home afterward and got a concussion. On Thursday night, LeBron had his way again with 37 points in a 93-87 victory without injured guard Mo Williams.

“I guess that’s why they got me, to take him out of the game,” Artest said. “[Thursday] it didn’t work. They got us this year, so all we can do is move on from that and see what happens in the playoffs.”

Artest is new to the Lakers’ midseason blahs, but he’s a quick study. The Lakers are so good, so talented, so dominant, he said, that the games are too easy for them to be engaged all the time.

“We haven’t played good basketball this whole year and I don’t even know how we’re in first place,” Artest said. “We don’t even know. We’re out there sometimes trying to figure out how we’re still in first place. … You can play against a couple of teams that have some star players or whatever, coast through the whole game, and win by 20 – real easy. And that’s how it’s been for us this whole season. A lot of wins just came from it really just being too easy for us. Sometimes it’s not fair. We’re up 20 in the first quarter. What else are you gonna do but win by 100 points? I guess that’s what we have to start doing.”

That’s where Bryant comes in, pressing his teammates’ feet back on the pedal. The ring finger on his shooting hand is broken in two places, his back is sore, and he just passed the halfway point of his 14th season. With those ailments and mileage, on the second night of a back-to-back, there wasn’t enough in the tank for his usual Garden explosion; Bryant was 8-for-24 for a pedestrian 27 points. But even if he had it in him, he said his teammates didn’t deserve it.

“I don’t think the way that we’re playing right now that we’re ready for that,” he said.

The rest of the trip will take them to Toronto, Washington, Indiana, Philadelphia, Boston, and Memphis a week from Monday. At some point, Bryant wants the D.N.A. to mutate.

The Lakers are 33-10, a half-game up on Cleveland for the best record in the league. If they face the Cavs in the Finals, they’re going to need it to attain homecourt advantage.

“We didn’t have [the best record] last year,” Jackson said. “And all of a sudden, Cleveland lost and Orlando stepped out into the vacuum. You can’t diminish it, but at some time you have to win on the road.”

Having achieved his desired result, at least for one night, Bryant went about his usual postgame meet-and-greets in the crowded hallways of the Garden, his favorite arena. He signed a pair of shoes for an actor from India, greeted someone who used to play in the driveway with Bryant’s father, Joe “Jelly Bean” Bryant, and shook every outstretched hand. Then it was down the freight elevator to a car that would take him to West 125th Street in Harlem, to a hush-hush event at the House of Hoops.

Mind games will resume on an as-needed basis.
Posted on: July 30, 2009 5:43 pm
Edited on: July 30, 2009 8:37 pm
 

Odom chooses Lakers (UPDATE)

Lamar Odom is doing the only thing that makes sense.

Returning to the Lakers.

All of this indecision for nothing.

UPDATE: The Lakers confirmed Thursday that they've reached an agreement with Odom and hope to finalize it in the next couple of days. Neither the Lakers nor Odom's agent, Jeff Schwartz, would comment on the details. A person with knowledge of the situation confirmed to CBSSports.com that Odom's teammates have been informed that the 6-10 forward isn't going anywhere, and a second source placed the total value of the four-year deal at significantly more than the mid-level exception but less than $33 million with the fourth-year team option factored in.

Either way, that's less than the Lakers originally offered, however -- a sign of just how much Odom wanted to stay with the Lakers. The cap-strapped Heat are believed to have offered a five-year deal starting at the mid-level exception of $5.9 million, giving Odom the ability to opt out after the fourth year.

Odom, 29, was one of the most integral pieces in the Lakers' championship run last season, and GM Mitch Kupchak prioritized his prized sixth man over fellow free agent starter Trevor Ariza. Odom's decision to turn down aggressive overtures from Miami Heat president Pat Riley and reigning scoring champion Dwyane Wade ended a month-long saga in which the Lakers pulled their initial offer off the table once Odom's agent began shopping it to other teams. Riley and Wade met personally with Odom on Monday, but couldn't close the deal.

UPDATE: The Lakers started the offseason with a flourish, coming out of nowhere to sign free agent Ron Artest when it became obvious that Ariza wanted more than market value -- the mid-level exception -- to stay in L.A. Lakers owner Jerry Buss let Ariza walk, but wasn't going to give up so easily on Odom. At various times this summer, teammates Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher had publicly lobbied for Odom to re-sign. It was perhaps a sign that even they weren't sure how this was going to end even though Odom had stated during the Finals that he had no intention of leaving the Lakers unless he received an offer he couldn't refuse.

That offer wasn't going to come from Miami, a team that is over the cap and probably still would've been another piece away from championship contention even if it had landed Odom. Playing with Wade would've satisfied one of Odom's requirements; he's never wanted to be a No. 1 option on his team. But with the Lakers, Odom can dominate for short spurts off the bench, taking advantage of mismatches against second units. His versatility -- playing on the perimeter and under the basket, defending small forwards and centers -- will be crucial to the Lakers staying on top in the West given the improvements made this summer by their competitors, most notably the Spurs.

And remember what Artest said the day he agreed to terms with the Lakers. One of the first points he made was that he's known Odom since both were teen-agers playing on the playgrounds of Queens and AAU tournaments. Artest has done a lot of crazy stuff in his career, but I always believed that he wouldn't have jumped quite so quickly at the Lakers' offer had he believed there was even a slim chance Odom would be leaving. 

Where does this leave the Heat? Well, there is always Carlos Boozer, who almost certainly will be dealt before the February trade deadline. Miami still has a $4 million trade exception it acquired in the Jermaine O'Neal trade. If not Boozer, Miami will have some cap flexibility next summer to surround Wade with the championship-level talent he so desperately desires. The problem is, if Wade doesn't sign an extension before then, he'll be fielding free agent offers, too.


Category: NBA
Posted on: July 27, 2009 10:51 pm
Edited on: July 28, 2009 9:08 am
 

Odom meeting with Riley, Wade

The Miami Heat's pursuit of free agent Lamar Odom has escalated in recent days. Now, reigning scoring champion Dwyane Wade reportedly will have a chance to close the deal in person.

Although Wade is dealing with forces beyond his control, he usually closes the deal.

Reporter Jim Hill of the CBS-TV affiliate in Los Angeles reports that Odom was scheduled to meet with Wade and Pat Riley on Monday in hopes of finalizing the talented sixth man's departure from the defending champion Lakers. This comes after Wade escalated his recruitment of Odom on his Twitter account over the weekend, urging Odom to "come back to where it started for both of us."

Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who personally closed the deal with free agent Ron Artest earlier this month, pulled his initial offer of three years and approximately $30 million off the table -- apparently in frustration over Odom's insistence on shopping the offer to other teams. Neither the Lakers nor Odom has closed the door on reigniting the talks, and some close to Odom still believe he prefers to re-sign with the Lakers. A face-to-face meeting with Riley and Wade will go a long way toward determining whether Odom and his agent, Jeff Schwartz, are posturing for a better offer or serious about leaving Hollywood for South Beach, where Odom played the 2003-04 season when Wade was a rookie.

A resolution is expected by the end of the week, but there's no foolproof way to handicap Odom's destination. Clearly, there will be no home-team discount for the Lakers. But if Odom was so intent on leaving, wouldn't he have made a decision already? Riley and Wade are extremely persuasive, but will they be able to sell Odom on the idea that Miami is a better championship contender with Odom than the Lakers are?

I'm on record saying Odom would be better off staying in L.A., but it's not my money or my career. If Odom finally decides to return to the Lakers, all of this posturing and negotiating will be forgotten. In my opinion, he fits better on that team than he would anywhere else.

Posted on: July 22, 2009 11:34 am
 

Time to re-sign, Lamar

A few weeks ago when Ron Artest decided to sign with the Lakers, one of the first things out of his mouth was this: "I know Lamar Odom, so that's pretty cool."

Artest and Odom have known each other since they were kids growing up in Queens, playing in the playgrounds and on AAU teams. As much as Artest wanted to sign with the Lakers -- even saying he'd "play there for nothing" -- it is unfathomable that he would've made such a bold career move without knowing L.O. would be on board.

This is why the posturing, the rejected offers, and the offers taken off the table over the past few weeks have been so puzzling. Well, puzzling isn't the right word. I never -- ever -- begrudge athletes, entertainers, finance people, or anybody else when they try to get paid. That is their right and that is how the game is played. An athlete's career is a nanosecond, and they should make as much money as humanly possible. You would do the same thing. So would I.

But the time has come for Odom and his agent, Jeff Schwartz, to recognize that the market is what it is for a player who might just be the best sixth man in the NBA -- but one who, nonetheless, has never made so much as an All-Star team or led the league in any major statistical category. Odom wears his heart on his sleeve and the address of the South Jamaica home where he grew up on the tongues of his sneakers. The dirty secret that Lakers management has known throughout this process is that Odom's heart is in L.A. That's where he and his sneakers belong, too.

Miami? Nice place. No state income tax. Great teammate to play with in Dwyane Wade. But adding Odom wouldn't put the Heat any closer to a title than the Lakers would be if they re-signed him. Portland? The Blazers certainly have the cap space after losing out on Hedo Turkoglu and Paul Millsap, but Portland doesn't feel like the right fit for Odom.

In my mind, the only place besides L.A. that would've made sense for Odom was Boston. But the Celtics struck early in the free-agent period and signed Rasheed Wallace for a fraction of what Odom is seeking.

There will be no hard feelings on either side when, I predict, Odom relents and accepts a three-year deal from the Lakers for somewhere north of $30 million. Derek Fisher is on record saying, "We want him back badly and I hope we can accomplish that in the next couple days." Kobe Bryant is on record saying he's "optimistic" that Odom will return to the Lakers. It is time for those recruiting efforts and optimism to become reality.

Some people whose names end in two G's don't like Lamar Odom. They're stuck in their wistful thinking about how good he could've been if he'd applied himself or if he wanted to be one of the top five players of his era. Odom certainly has that kind of talent. But he was born to be a wingman, and life's challenges have only solidified that niche for him. The Lakers are the perfect team for him, and he for them. It's time to stop posturing and put pen to paper with the Lakers. I refuse to believe that Fisher, Bryant, and Artest will let him do anything different. If Odom knows what's good for him -- if he knows where he's wanted and where he belongs -- then he'll listen.

Posted on: July 1, 2009 7:18 pm
Edited on: July 2, 2009 2:20 am
 

Free-Agent Buzz: Artest to Cavs? (UPDATE)

You want buzz? How's Ron Artest playing on the same team with LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal?

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the Cavs -- and LeBron himself -- are recruiting Artest to form a new Big Three in Cleveland that would be entertaining, potentially combustible, and perhaps even really, really good. The possibilities are endless -- great quotes, controversies, Artest advocating for LeBron in the LeBron-Kobe debate. Maybe even a championship.

Artest has been fielding offers from several teams, but so far the most impressive has to be Cleveland's courtship, which included LeBron making an in-person pitch recently when both players were in Los Angeles for events. This could develop quickly; a person close to Artest indicated that the small forward was expecting to start sorting through offers as early as Wednesday night.

By joining the Rockets last season and not making any waves -- not to mention his mostly effective contributions in the playoffs -- Artest earned himself one more free-agent score. And the value won't necessarily be measured in dollars, but in the opportunity to win a championship. For that reason, and in order to repay the Rockets for taking a chance on him, Artest had been leaning toward returning to Houston. But the possibility that Yao Ming could miss the entire 2009-10 season has changed everything.

Artest made several conspicuous appearances at Lakers home games during the Finals, and L.A. could be a formidable competitor for Artest's services -- especially if the Lakers lose either Lamar Odom or Trevor Ariza, both unrestricted free agents.

The most the Cavs can offer is the mid-level exception of about $5.6 million, and Artest figures to do better elsewhere -- in terms of dollars but not opportunity. At various times during the past two years as he approached free agency, Artest repeatedly said he wasn't looking for one more pay day, but rather for the chance to win a championship. The opportunity has arrived.

Here's more free-agent buzz from conversations with executives, agents, and others in the know:

* After CBSSports.com reported early Wednesday that the Trail Blazers were aggressively pursuing Hedo Turkoglu, the free-agent forward will receive a visit from Portland coach Nate McMillan Wednesday night in Orlando. Turkoglu is expected to accept the team's invitation to tour Portland and the Blazers' facilities on Thursday. An offer -- believed to be a five-year deal in the $50 million range -- is expected to be extended at that time. As many as five teams have inquired about Turkoglu -- some with cap room, some without, according to agent Lon Babby. One of them is not the Detroit Pistons, who have focused their attention on Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.

UPDATE: The Raptors are debating whether to make a pre-emptive offer to Turkoglu that would top Portland's, but that would require renouncing the rights to Shawn Marion, Carlos Delfino, and Anthony Parker. Another option is to keep those players and sign a mid-level free agent. If the Raptors decide to go for a bigger name, Turkoglu isn't the only one they're considering. They also have interest in Knicks restricted free agent David Lee.

* The Knicks rolled out the red carpet for Jason Kidd at Madison Square Garden Wednesday, but the Mavericks still have the advantage in their efforts to retain the future Hall of Fame point guard. A person familiar with the talks said there are strong indications that Mavs owner Mark Cuban is willing to offer Kidd a three-year deal, which is well beyond what the Knicks are prepared to offer.

* Suns free agent Grant Hill received an in-person pitch from Steve Kerr in Orlando after free agency opened at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday and has been invited to visit the Knicks next week. The Celtics, who are heavily recruiting Rasheed Wallace, also have expressed interest in Hill.

* If Trevor Ariza feels slighted that all the Lakers can offer him is the mid-level exception, it's not clear where he's going to do better than that on the open market. One rival executive believes the Lakers have prioritized Ariza over their other unrestricted free agent, Lamar Odom, and several sources believe they still have a chance to retain both. The Spurs have expressed interest in Odom, as well as Marcin Gortat (courted by the Rockets), and Antonio McDyess.



 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com