The Los Angeles Lakers' front office is in disarray, writes Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, which has severely jeopardized their chances of landing Orlando Magic superstar center Dwight Howard via trade. "This is a real critical time," Berger cites one source as saying. "The chances of Dwight Howard coming in there are slim and none at this point." That source says Jim Buss, L.A.'s executive vice president, is at a disadvantage negotiating trades with other teams because he "has no relationships with other GMs."
Given the extensive chaos in the Lakers organization, it seems unlikely they'll be able to trade for Howard. Though Orlando understandably doesn't want to part ways with its all-time leading scorer and franchise cornerstone, it may have to trade him prior to the March 15th deadline in order to avoid risking him walking away for nothing. As the New Jersey Nets and Dallas Mavericks could have enough cap space to sign him outright--Dallas would need to use the amnesty clause on one player and trade another--the threat of receiving nothing in return for Howard is very real.
Los Angeles' potential involvement in the Howard sweepstakes is key because it can offer, in All-Star center Andrew Bynum, the best possible return for Howard via trade. Though not quite the player Howard is, the 24-year-old Bynum is nonetheless a powerhouse, averaging 16.3 points--as a third offensive option--13.1 boards, and 2.1 blocked shots. This season marks the fifth consecutive one in which Bynum has posted a Player Efficiency Rating over 20. He is nearly an elite player, and well worth building a post-Howard roster around.
But if the Lakers' front office is so toxic that it can't, or won't, negotiate trades with other teams, then the Magic might have to settle for a lesser package. Nets center Brook Lopez is reasonably talented and an obvious candidate to build a Howard trade-offer around, but Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel reported earlier in February the Magic have no interest in him.
Prior to the start of the 2011/12 season, the Lakers were among three teams to which Howard, a free-agent-to-be, indicated he'd like the Magic to trade him; Dallas and New Jersey are the other two. Orlando management granted Dan Fegan, Howard's agent, permission to discuss trades with those three teams. But word in recent days suggests the Mavs and Nets have emerged as the favorites to land the three-time Defensive Player of the Year.
Berger's report, which cites several anonymous sources, details how the shift in power from Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss to his son Jim has turned the Lakers organization upside-down. Prior to the NBA lockout, the team dismissed several key front-office personnel, including assistant general manager Ronnie Lester. Berger says coach Mike Brown, in his first year with the team, only learned the Lakers agreed to trade Lamar Odom to Dallas after the deal went through. Finally, one of the Lakers' three remaining scouts is a good buddy of Jim Buss' named Chaz, a former bartender. NBA fans owe it to themselves to read the story.