NBA Sunday: Lakers Lose Paul, Howard Next?
Paul Not Headed to L.A… Again
At some point in the gambling process, a prudent person just has to pull out of the game and say, “Too rich for my blood,” and that appears to be what the L.A. Lakers have done with this star-crossed (and star-studded) Chris Paul trade.
Late Saturday night, news started popping up from multiple sources that the talks between the Lakers, Houston Rockets, and New Orleans Hornets were essentially dead, citing that the cost to bring Paul to Hollywood had simply gotten too steep.
The first veto is well-documented, and we know now that “basketball reasons” translates to the league wanting younger assets headed to the Hornets and more financial responsibility shifted on the Lakers. With several new, slightly-altered iterations of the trade rebuffed all day on Saturday, the Lakers reportedly grew exhausted by the process and decided that taking on all the extra salary and trying to find those younger assets was going to be too difficult and probably not worth the end result.
It shouldn’t be too surprising that the deal fell apart since the main pieces of the original offer remained largely intact. The Hornets still would have received Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, and Lamar Odom, all between the ages of 29 and 32, as the main players in the deal, and those players still would have been too old for legitimate rebuilding efforts in the league’s eyes.
New Orleans now must turn their attention back to the L.A. Clippers and Golden State Warriors, who were the front-runners in this thing before this whole Lakers mess went into motion. The first round of negotiations did not result in either Eric Gordon or Steph Curry even getting considered as part of the trade, so it’s hard to believe that will happen now, but those two teams seem like the Hornets’ best bet to get value out of CP3 before he bolts town in six months with zero compensation.
Before we get too excited about the continued trade rumors in the Chris Paul Sweepstakes, keep in mind that a lot of teams have been scared away by the Big-Brotheresque way the NBA handled the Lakers trade. No one wants to put all that time and effort into something that’s going to end in fruitless heartbreak.
The Hornets have to trade Paul, however, and that reality means a trade of some sort is imminent. As good as the Lakers deal looked to most of us (including Hornets GM Dell Demps, obviously), they’re going to have to look for something new. It seems doubtful they’ll get a package that valuable from anywhere else, but this is the world we live in. Hopefully it’s something that can get resolved before the start of the season, because this could potentially be a huge distraction for the New Orleans players if it doesn’t.
Odom Is Still Gone, Though
As little as Pau Gasol has been affected by all these trade rumors, Lamar Odom has been genuinely hurt by how easily his current employer would have cast him aside. With his relationship with the Lakers irreparably damaged by this whole process, L.A. had little choice but to trade him somewhere, and it looks like that will be to the Dallas Mavericks for a first-round draft pick and a significant chunk of the $8.9 million traded player exception they got out of the Tyson Chandler sign-and-trade to New York.
The Mavericks, for their part, get an excellent backup for Dirk Nowitzki without having to give up any real assets, but as lopsided as the deal seems for the Lakers, it also sets them up for something bigger. A lot bigger. Like, over seven-feet-tall big with shoulders wider than a Mack truck. This, of course, leads us to…
The Lakers’ Pursuit of Dwight Howard
The jettisoning of Odom could help pave the way for a Dwight Howard deal, making a long-term max extension for him seem more palatable for a team already paying the league’s most expensive player over the next few years.
With the Chris Paul talks breaking down, it now seems like an almost certainty that L.A. will step up its efforts to land Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard. The Lakers are one of three teams Howard said he would sign an extension with, and Orlando is reportedly enamored with Andrew Bynum as a somewhat reasonable for replacement for Dwight if and when he leaves town. Should the Lakers also throw in Pau Gasol, as it’s being suggested they would need to do in order to consummate a trade with the Magic, then Orlando wouldn’t come out things looking too bad.
It would be interesting to see how the league dealt that with that particular trade when it was submitted to NBA offices for approval. If the Chris Paul trade was unfair for competitive balance, the aforementioned Dwight Howard trade would have to be even more frightening.
However, as an independently owned team (not league owned, like the Hornets), the Magic would seemingly have to be allowed to make their own decisions. They also don’t need to rebuild with young pieces, as many of their key guys are in their late ‘20s and early ‘30s. With Gasol and Bynum in place to work alongside Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, and Hedo Turkoglu, the Magic would still be a reasonably competitive playoff team.
The Lakers, meanwhile, would be a juggernaut. Non-Laker fans would almost rather them have made the Paul trade, because this one puts them in much better shape, both in the short- and long-term.
Bulls Might Get Involved, Too
The Chicago Bulls, for whatever reason, aren’t on the list of Dwight Howard’s preferred teams, but according to ESPNChicago’s Nick Friedell, that’s not going to stop them from sniffing around at the most dominant center in the league.
With so many people saying a deal built around Brook Lopez and draft picks would be wonderful for the Magic, it’s understandable that Bulls brass would look at their own list of assets and feel as though they could top that particular offer. In fact, Chicago could have enough assets to top even a potential Bynum and Gasol offer from L.A., if that is what the Lakers have planned for the coming week.
Up to this point, the Bulls have been surprisingly quiet about having interest in Howard, and as a result the general consensus is that they weren’t interested, despite so many fans clamoring for the opportunity to see Howard and Derrick Rose play together for the next decade.
It seems like now they might be more interested than any of us realized. Chicago’s offer would almost certainly have to start with Joakim Noah, who is in the same discussion as Lopez and Bynum as far as talent is concerned, but Chicago could also offer Luol Deng and either Taj Gibson or Omer Asik, while returning Howard and Turkoglu. Sprinkle in a draft pick or two, and that seems like an offer Orlando would have to seriously consider.
However, the Bulls aren’t making that offer without Howard agreeing to sign an extension in Chicago. An early rumor was that the cold weather scared him off, but if that were the case he wouldn’t have listed Brooklyn as one of his preferred destinations. If the Bulls are serious, and if they’re smart they would be, they’ll make a strong pitch and hope that they can get Howard’s attention. There’s no reason that they shouldn’t be in the conversation with L.A., New Jersey and Dallas.
And if the Lakers would’ve had a juggernaut with Dwight, it’s scary to think what the Bulls would look like with him.
Other NBA Notes
- The Golden State Warriors will reportedly sign DeAndre Jordan to a 4-year, $40 million offer sheet on Sunday, and according to a couple different sources they will not have to use the amnesty provision on Andris Biedrins in order to do it. The Clippers will have three days to match, though it seems unlikely they let him walk away for $10 million a season. Not that such a deal is necessarily a bargain, but it has to be right around what L.A. thought he would get.
- If and when Richard Hamilton clears waivers, expect him to sign with the Chicago Bulls. At 33 years old, he’s not a long-term solution for Chicago at the two, but Hamilton at two years and $10 million is about as good a bargain buy as the team will get. Sources have said on many occasions that Jamal Crawford would have been their top option, but they simply couldn’t afford him without doing a sign-and-trade. With four huge contracts on the books next year if you include Derrick Rose’s extension, the team was hesitant to take on another big one, hence the move for Hamilton, who plays better defense than Crawford, anyway. Coincidentally, Chicago is Crawford’s first choice, but not at the expense of losing his last big payday.
- According to our own Alex Kennedy, the New York Knicks are now showing interest in Crawford as well, but like the Bulls he would have to be acquired via sign-and-trade. New York doesn’t have a lot to offer by way of assets, but the interest is definitely real.
- Mike Bibby, meanwhile, looks ready to sign a one-year deal with the Knicks. It’s not a surprising move after the team amnestied Chauncey Billups to sign Tyson Chandler. Bibby will most likely back up Toney Douglas.