Sources: Clippers eye Lamar Odom
Yet the deal, sources said, could hinge on the willingness of a third team to take on the contract of Clippers veteran guard Mo Williams, which would allow the Dallas Mavericks to send Odom to the Clippers with no significant money coming back to the Mavericks.
With a Friday deadline looming for the Mavericks to buy out the final year of Odom's contract for $2.4 million, Dallas officials have green-lighted Odom's agent, Jeff Schwartz, to try to find a new home for Odom this week via trade. The Mavericks and Schwartz also have discussed pushing the deadline back into July if an Odom trade can't be struck before Friday.
The Mavericks' interest in an Odom deal, though, is purely to gain financial flexibility, which likely necessitates a third team to take on Williams. If no trade can be struck, either this week or before an adjusted deadline, Dallas is expected to eventually buy Odom out and make him a free agent, with big-market teams such as Miami and New York also planning to pursue him in that scenario.
Although Williams is a former All-Star and still a valuable contributor at 29, Dallas has little need for him given its long-planned pursuits of marquee free agents Deron Williams and Steve Nash and its oft-stated desire to bring back championship-winning point guard Jason Kidd when free agency starts at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.
The Mavericks are one of two finalists, along with the Brooklyn Nets, for Dallas-area native Deron Williams and have long planned to pursue the re-signing of Nash -- who left Dallas for Phoenix in the summer of 2004 -- in the event Deron Williams decides to stay with the Nets.
Mo Williams has maintained all season that he plans to exercise his $8.5 million player option for the 2012-13 season despite the fact the Clippers have Chris Paul and promising youngster Eric Bledsoe at point guard, and want to bring back veteran guard Chauncey Billups, even after the 35-year-old suffered a season-ending Achilles injury.
Yet it remains to be seen whether Mo Williams will hold to that stance. He has until June 30 to make that decision and his agent, Mark Bartelstein, recently told ESPNLosAngeles.com that he and the Clippers were "kind of exploring everything" to find the best solution.
"Mo's a professional and I think he showed that last season," Bartelstein said. "He had a great year under difficult circumstances. That said, he's a starting point guard. He's an All-Star starting point guard. So we'll look at everything and see what makes sense."
Sources told ESPN.com on Tuesday that one team to express interest in Williams is the Los Angeles Lakers, who still have a trade exception big enough to absorb Williams' contract that they created when they dealt Odom to Dallas.
Odom, meanwhile, is eager to return to his adopted home of Los Angeles to resume his career after what amounts to a lost season after his trade from the Lakers to the Mavericks in December.
The move to Dallas followed Odom's inclusion in the Lakers' original three-team trade with New Orleans and Houston that would have landed him with the Hornets and placed Paul in the same Lakers backcourt as Kobe Bryant. But that trade was called off by NBA commissioner David Stern, who has insisted he took that step as the Hornets' lead decision-maker at the time because the Hornets were owned by the league. A few days later, Stern signed off on the Hornets' deal to send Paul to the Clippers.
Drafted by the Clippers in 1999 and a winner of two championship rings in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons with the Lakers, Odom never fit with the Mavericks and left the team by mutual consent before the playoffs began after a nightmarish three months.
Odom has been working out on his own ever since and will attempt to earn a spot on the team bound for the London Olympics next month when he reports to Team USA training camp in Las Vegas.
Yet it remains to be seen whether the Clippers are prepared to push the deal through. In addition to finding a third team, they'll have to be convinced that Odom is indeed poised for a return to his Lakers form and also bury any lingering dismay from Odom's departure from the Clippers in the summer of 2003, when, as a restricted free agent, he issued a series of public pleas to owner Donald Sterling to be set free to join the Miami Heat after Miami signed him to an offer sheet.