Sunday , Jun , 14 , 2009 C.Y. Ellis

Can Lakers Afford to Keep Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza?

Such is the business of basketball that Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom are collaborating while competing, trying their best to win a championship for Los Angeles even if it means one of them won’t be around when they hand out the rings next season.

Both will be free agents this summer. And since the Lakers are looking at $74 million for eight players (assuming Kobe Bryant doesn’t leave through his opt-out clause) on the 2009-10 payroll, it is not a given that both Ariza and Odom can return.

"Sometimes you have to make tough decisions," a Lakers official said.

But this organization does not always make cold-hearted decisions. After the Lakers won their last championship in 2002, owner Jerry Buss refuted notions that he would slash payroll to get below the luxury-tax threshold, jubilantly declaring, "We’re going way over the tax!" in the hours after the Lakers beat the New Jersey Nets in the NBA Finals.