The worst-kept secret in basketball--that the Los Angeles Lakers covet Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, and are willing to offer Andrew Bynum for him--could soon be made official. The Lakers, having acquired Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets earlier Thursday, are not content to fill just one position with its best player; one agent Chris Tomasson spoke to, he says, "really does believe that a package involving Andrew Bynum for Dwight Howard is coming." What that means isn't exactly clear, as the term "package" is ambiguous in context. It could mean that's what the Lakers will offer, or it could mean that's the trade that could conceivably happen.
When word began to spread about the Lakers' increasingly serious talks with the Hornets for Chris Paul--with the Houston Rockets facilitating the trade as the third team--it became clear L.A. would not have to part with Bynum, the 24-year-old center regarded as one of the league's better prospects in the pivot. That, in turn, created speculation that L.A. was "saving" Bynum to offer to Orlando for Howard.
Don't expect the Magic to bite on such an offer, at least not yet; Ken Berger of CBS Sports quotes a source as saying Otis Smith, the Magic's President of Basketball Operations, is "nowhere near considering trade offers yet." That statement does not rule out the possibility of him listening to offers for Howard in the future. My sense is that L.A., if it truly wants Howard this season, will keep Bynum on the table.
The Lakers reportedly contacted the Magic regarding Howard a few days ago, a conversation Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times termed "unproductive." All indications are the Magic intend to start the season with Howard on their roster.
Paul heads to the Lakers as part of a three-team trade between L.A., the Rockets, and Hornets. Though details are still sketchy, it appears as though Pau Gasol is headed to Houston, while New Orleans will receive Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic, and Luis Scola. Draft picks may also change hands in the deal.
The Lakers' acquisition of Paul without giving up Bynum has more than one bearing on Howard's future in Orlando, however. In addition to keeping its best trade chip, Los Angeles has, in this trade, obtained a friend of Howard's who had reportedly contacted him in recent days to express an interest in teaming up. Could the opportunity to play alongside Paul and Kobe Bryant, of whom he's fond, in the Los Angeles market be too much for Howard to turn down?