Lamar Odom's quest for a long-term contract has taken the free-agent market's biggest remaining name back to Miami, for a second visit with Heat officials.
With Heat coach/president Pat Riley back in town, Odom arrived in Miami on Monday, according to league sources. Odom's hope is to secure an offer sheet from the Heat before he leaves this time, after which the Los Angeles Clippers would have 15 days to match the offer, as they did when Miami signed Elton Brand to an $82 million offer sheet.
Because Odom is a restricted free agent, Miami has withheld an offer sheet until now largely on the assumption that the Clippers would match. Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor has informed Odom that L.A. does intend to match any offer.
It remains to be seen if the Heat can construct an offer sufficiently rich and front-loaded -- perhaps averaging more than $10 million per season -- to make the Clippers change their mind. Clippers owner Donald Sterling has already invested an unprecedented $124 million in Brand and Corey Maggette.
If Odom does not land an offer sheet from the Heat, and if the Clippers refuse to increase their recent three-year offer to Odom worth $24 million, the 23-year-old can still elect to sign a one-year tender with L.A. that would make him an unrestricted free agent next summer. Miami is expected to have ample salary-cap space in the summer of 2004 to make another run at Odom if necessary.