Thursday, November 24, 2011
Sources: Lamar Odom, Besiktas agree
By Marc Stein
Los Angeles Lakers forward Lamar Odom has reached an agreement in principle to sign with Besiktas of Turkey and team up overseas with Nets star Deron Williams, according to sources close to Odom.
Final details will not be sorted out before Friday, sources said, but Odom has indicated that he plans to join the Istanbul-based team as early as next week if the NBA lockout continues.
Sources told ESPN.com that the deal would pay Odom in excess of $2 million if he spends the rest of the season with Besiktas. The deal -- first reported in Turkey by NTV Spor and local journalist Mete Aktas -- will include an opt-out clause to return to the NBA as soon as the lockout ends, same as in Williams' contract.
After Minnesota's Kevin Love turned down the chance last weekend to take a similar deal to play alongside Williams, ESPN.com reported late Tuesday that Odom was the new target. Besiktas has been trying for days to acquire a top-flight big man to pair with Williams, who erupted for 50 points Tuesday in a EuroChallenge game against Gottingen of Germany.
Besiktas wanted a big man from the NBA even before Cleveland Cavaliers forward Semih Erden suffered a thumb injury in the win over Gottingen. According to various media reports in Turkey, Besiktas also entered into talks with Williams' New Jersey teammate Brook Lopez this week while waiting on Odom's decision.
But Aktas reported earlier Thursday that Besiktas coach Ergin Ataman preferred Odom even though Lopez is more of a traditional center. Besiktas can sign only one more foreign player in addition to Williams.
During its courtship of Love, Besiktas also talked to Chicago Bulls teammates Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer. But the insurance costs in both of those cases appeared to be prohibitive, given that both players have expensive long-term contracts. Boozer has four years and nearly $61 million left on his contract, while Deng is still owed just under $40 million in the next three seasons.
Other players on Besiktas' radar in recent days, according to NTV Spor, were Denver Nuggets free-agent center Nene and Phoenix Suns center Marcin Gortat.
Odom, though, stood out to Besiktas for his versatility, his friendship with Williams -- with whom he shares agent Jeff Schwartz -- and a contract that's manageable insurance-wise for Besiktas. Odom's deal with the Lakers has just two years to run worth slightly more than $17 million, but the 2012-13 season is only partially guaranteed.
Odom turned 32 earlier this month and is well-regarded in Turkish basketball circles following his strong play in Istanbul in summer 2010 for the victorious Team USA at the world championships. Despite the fact that his wife, Khloe Kardashian, has Armenian roots, Odom's reality show with Kardashian airs in Turkey and is said to be popular there.
NTV Spor reported last week that Love and Deng were initially Besiktas' top two targets in its hunt for an elite forward to play alongside Williams.
"I didn't feel it was the right decision for me at this time," Love said Sunday in explaining his decision to pass.
Love, however, did say playing abroad, if the lockout drags on, "is still very much an option" he's considering.
Persistent questions about Besiktas' budget, most recently raised after two WNBA stars (Amber Harris and Jantel Lavender) left the club's women's team in a dispute over late payments, hasn't stopped Besiktas from aggressively pursuing a slew of NBA stars throughout the offseason.
After well-publicized runs during the summer at Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, Besiktas' wide-ranging search for size to complement Williams, according to Aktas, also featured discussions with Memphis' Zach Randolph, Dallas' Tyson Chandler, Chicago's Omer Asik, Chris Kaman of the Los Angeles Clippers and Andrew Bynum of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Senior writer Marc Stein covers the NBA for ESPN.com.