Odom leaning Miami?

Yes, at least according to a Yahoo! Sports source.

Odom has not reached a final decision, the sources said, but there is growing belief he will ultimately return to the Heat unless the Lakers improve their current offer.

“It’s close, but it’s not done,” said one source.

Lakers officials and Odom’s representatives resumed talking after a weeklong standoff that began when Jerry Buss, the team’s owner, withdrew a four-year, $36 million offer that guaranteed $30 million. Sources close to Odom said that while the two sides have since talked, Buss is now offering less than the Lakers’ previous proposal.

I still don’t know how the Heat’s offer of five years and $34 million is better than the Lakers’ offer of four years and $36 million (which works out to around $32 million after state taxes). Surely, Odom would be able to make more than $2 million in the year after the Laker deal expired. But hey, I’m not an accountant.

Or maybe he’s ticked off that Buss is offering less and wants to go to an organization that has demonstrated that it really wants him. If Miami can get Odom at the mid-level, it will be a coup, though it will create something of a logjam at power forward since that’s the position the Heat want Michael Beasley to play.

If the Lakers let Odom slip away, they will be going backwards this summer. The Ron Artest signing is nice, but Artest does not offset the loss of Odom and Trevor Ariza. With the Spurs, Blazers and Mavericks nipping at their heels, things could get very interesting in the West.

Note: John Ireland of 710 Los Angeles has reported that the fourth year of the Laker deal is only partially guaranteed (for $3 million), so the best deal that the Lakers offered was for $27 million over three years plus a guaranteed $3 million in the fourth year. So, after state taxes, that’s worth about $27 million over three years. It now makes sense that Odom would consider taking the five-year deal from the Heat since that deal offers as much as $7 million more in guaranteed money, maybe more if the Lakers’ latest offer has been reduced.

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