According to ESPN, a proposed three-team trade involving the Lakers, Hornets, and Rockets is off after NBA owners protested against the league-owned Hornets moving Paul to the championship-contending Lakers, perhaps opening the door to another blockbuster deal.
With the Paul trade on hold, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak can now turn his attention to Orlando center Dwight Howard. Kupchak has plenty of trade bait to land Howard, but the Magic may choose not to trade with the Lakers. In 1996, the Lakers signed superstar center Shaquille O'Neal, who was also drafted by Orlando. Another prized center moving to southern California may not sit well with Magic fans.
It's possible that the Lakers can offer two of three players to land Howard, which might be the sweetest deal the Magic are offered. Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom are considered coveted big men, and could immediately strengthen Orlando. The Lakers were reportedly interested in adding both Paul and Howard, but may consider settling for just Howard -- for now.
Earlier this week, ESPN cited sources that said Paul and Howard have had several discussion about playing together on various teams.
The Lakers could perhaps sign Paul at the end of the season without giving up players in return, which would be devasting to New Orleans, who are looking to rebuild. Sources have reported that Paul has stated his desire to play for the Lakers.
Point guards Derek Fisher and Steve Blake are still on the Lakers roster after under-achieving last season. If the owners have indeed blocked a Paul deal to the Lakers, Kupchak may keep the tandem of Fisher and Blake for the shortened season and focus on acquiring Howard, and then simply sign Paul next summer.
The only other team that has reportedly shown strong interest in acquiring Howard are the Nets. Insiders claim that New Jersey has offered Brook Lopez and two first-round draft picks for the three-time Defensive Player of the Year.