Is Odom allowed to go back to the Lakers?

Is Odom allowed to go back to the Lakers?

Published Jun. 8, 2012 3:43 p.m. ET

DALLAS — Conventional wisdom says the Dallas Mavericks can't trade Lamar Odom back to the Lakers in expedient fashion. But we've discovered a loophole. Involved is negotiating with Odom for a revised deadline date - and sources tell and that the Mavs have initiated talks to do just that. Here's the inside story of what's up - and what can happen as the Mavs work to turn Odom into a perfect-fit trade asset:

What will happen with Lamar Odom? The Dallas Mavericks don't want him back. He loves LA and Lakers coach Mike Brown has recently expressed interest in having him back. Yet it seems rules are in the way right now to make it easy for the Mavs to move him, or for him to play for the Lakers.

But we've exclusively learned that the possibilities and his destination may change significantly, and that the cogs are in motion so that the change may come soon.

On Wednesday the LA Times' Mike Bresnahan and Mark Medina wrote the following:

As for Odom, the NBA is standing firm on the relatively new rule that players cannot return to their old teams for a full year after being traded, a change made in the new collective-bargaining agreement last December.

Players formerly had to wait one month before rejoining teams that traded them, sometimes negotiating quick buyouts from their new team to go back to their old one, a scheme the NBA thwarted by creating the revision in December.

(Odom) was traded to Dallas on Dec. 11 for a first-round pick that the Lakers subsequently sent to Houston in the Derek Fisher trade.

Odom would have to miss about six weeks of the season if he waited to join the Lakers in December, an unlikely event according to a person familiar with the situation.

The Lakers could offer Odom the $3-million mini mid-level exception next season or $1.4 million, the veteran's minimum for a player with his experience.

All of that is true at the moment -- as Bresnahan and Medina noted, Odom (as a multi-year contract player) can't be waived by Dallas and signed by LA until December. But ....

We have learned that the Mavs are working on taking a significant step that would allow Odom's return to the Lakers this summer, opening up multiple avenues.

A highly-placed league insider tells us the Mavs are already pursuing a revision to Odom's contract that would move his deadline to buy out his last year at $2.4 million from June 29, 2012 to some time in July, a contractual change that is permitted by the league with mutual agreement from both player and team.

That would make a major difference in Odom's future possibilities, especially as it pertains to the Lakers.

As explained by capologist David Lord, the primary difference that revision permits is to open up a trade of Odom from Dallas to LA, which is not only his simplest route to the Lakers, but in many ways is the best choice for all parties involved. That option is currently blocked by the rule that disallows a player to be traded back to the same team in the same NBA season (which ends June 30), and the Mavs would not want to keep him past the June 29 deadline and take the chance of being committed to his $8.2 million salary for next season.

Would Dallas and LA shy away from helping each other? Probably not. At the moment their path to the top isn't blocked by each other, but by OKC and SA, and all they are worried about is helping their own cause in finding a way to pass the Thunder and the Spurs.

Is there a reason for Odom and agent Schwartz to turn down Dallas' proposal? We don't think so. One, Jeff Schwartz (who also reps Deron Williams and Jason Kidd) has a solid relationship with the Mavs. And two, Odom might want to explore free agency if he thinks he can make more than his $8.2 million. But the market (and his performance in Dallas) wouldn't seem to merit such a raise. Remember, too: Even if the Lakers consider him worth more than $8.2 mil, all they have available is the aforementioned $3 million mini-MLE.

This trick is the way for Odom to get his team and his money.

For Dallas, that change opens the door to an eager taker for a player they no longer want. They wouldn't have to pay his $2.4 million buyout fee or bribe some other team to do so, because there would be no buyout. And by moving the time frame to July, a trade to LA could become part of the salary-matching for the Mavs in a three-way deal. (Think of Marion coming to Dallas for Stackhouse's similar contract, or Chandler to Dallas for Dampier.)

July 1 begins a very active free agency environment. For Dallas that time focuses on Deron Williams. But the transformation of Odom's contract into an asset ranks high in importance, too.
For the Lakers, they would get Odom for a full season including training camp, giving him plenty of time to learn the new system under Mike Brown, a coach he's never played for. In addition, it would allow LA the ability to preserve their MLE for a different addition.

For Odom, he gets to the team he wants, and he plays there for $8.2 million rather than $3 million or less.

Because of the way Dallas can turn Odom into cap room, into a draft-affecting trade, into even a chip to throw into a three-way trade for a "big fish,'' everybody wins.

There are other ways this deadline revision could help Odom get to the Lakers. But even if LA doesn't trade for him, a revision makes it much easier for the Mavs to trade him, with his large almost-vanishing contract becoming a huge trade-matching tool. Even if he gets traded to another team besides LA and then waived, the one-year rule would no longer prevent him from going to the Lakers, as the restriction from returning after a trade-and-waiver would then be applied to Dallas rather than LA.

Odom seemingly has to wait until December if he wants to go to the Lakers, and has to play there for peanuts? The Mavs have Odom as a liability rather than an asset? The Lakers can't get Odom until December and have to use their MLE to do so? Those may have been true yesterday, but the Mavs are already working to erase all of those obstacles and to alter the landscape for everyone involved.