NBA Rumors: Chris Paul to Los Angeles Lakers Trade in Works Affects Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic

Multiple outlets, including Sports Illustrated, are reporting the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, and New Orleans Hornets are discussing a three-team trade wherein Hornets point guard Chris Paul would go to Los Angeles; with Lakers big man Pau Gasol heading to Houston; and Rockets power forward Luis Scola and shooting guard Kevin Martin joining the Hornets. Such a trade would bolster the Lakers' championship hopes, obviously, but would also not hurt their chances of acquiring Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard.

The Magic may trade Howard, who can become a free agent in 2012, if he makes it clear to them he does not intend to return. Though all 29 of the league's other teams would love to have Howard in their employ, the Lakers could still offer Orlando center Andrew Bynum even after acquiring Paul, if they are indeed able to make that trade happen. Chris Mannix of SI reports the Lakers would offer Bynum to the Magic for Howard "and whatever bad contract ORL wants to dump." One suspects that bad contract could be that of Gilbert Arenas or Hedo Turkoglu.

Though the Magic have reportedly rebuffed all trade inquiries about Howard--including at least one the Lakers made--President of Basketball Operations Otis Smith implicitly made clear in a Wednesday news conference he will trade his franchise player if that's the best move for the organization to make.

Bynum is one of the top prospects Orlando could hope to land in a trade for Howard, with the other notable being Brook Lopez of the New Jersey Nets. Just 24 years old, Bynum owns career averages of 10.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.5 blocked shots. Most recently, he tallied 11.3 points, 9.4 rebounds, and two blocks per game for L.A. while converting 57.4 percent of his shot attempts.

There may not be reason for Magic fans to panic about losing Howard to the Lakers just yet, however, despite his closeness with Paul, with whom he's discussed teaming up recently. Howard's strong preference is to spend the rest of his career with Orlando provided it can surround him with quality teammates, and soon, according to one report of what Howard discussed with Smith during a recent face-to-face meeting.

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