Mitch Kupchak isn't done.
According to ESPN sources, the Lakers general manager remains in talks to add Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, as the departure of Lamar Odom has many wondering if the Lakers can still be a title contender in the 2011-2012 season.
The Lakers still have plenty of trade bait, which includes Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, the $8.9 million trade exception that the team received from Odom, and draft picks. The Lakers can also include Matt Barnes in a deal, and could possibly use their amnesty clause on Metta World Peace, who is owed $22 million over three years, to free up salary cap space.
However, It may be hard to add Howard. The Magic have decided to not take offers for Howard, as the star center has given indications that he might be willing to stay in Orlando. Howard has been adamant that he wants to play for a winner, and that could still be Orlando should the Magic add pieces that Howard may feel are enough to contend for the title.
One scenario has the Lakers trading Bynum, Gasol, and draft picks for Howard, and also take=ing on the contract of Hedo Turkoglu. So far, the Magic have been not warm to the idea of sending Howard to the Lakers. It will probably take a three-trade deal to get Howard to the Lakers, and such a trade can be difficult to coordinate.
As for Paul, he is still in New Orleans, and remains a target of the Lakers and Clippers. The Lakers would almost certainly have to include Gasol, the trade exception acquired from Odom, as well as draft picks in a three-team deal to land Paul. Those are similar components to what the Lakers offered in the first trade that was turned down by the NBA owners, who control the Hornets.
Meanwhile, Paul is almost certainly on his way out of New Orleans. Paul might be garnering too much interest at this point, though, as the NBA owners seem to expect an over-abundance of talent in exchange for the point guard. The NBA is playing a dangerous game, should Paul decide to be vindictive and patient.
It's possible that the NBA will cave and finally accept a Paul trade to the Lakers, as Paul might consider staying put with the Hornets this season, and then leave New Orleans to go to the Lakers at the end of the season as a free agent with the Hornets not receiving anything in exchange.
The NBA season is 11 days away. Kupchak will need to act quick, as the team is still without a legitimate starting point guard, and without a scoring presence off the bench.
It's possible Kupchak will wait until mid-March as the team adjusts under new head coach Mike Brown. Kupchak could hold off on pulling the trigger on a major deal until the trade deadline to see the progress of certain players.
The team has already made moves, but none that are as significant as the potential acquisition of Paul. The Lakers added free-agent power forward Josh McRoberts for two years at about $6.2 million, as well as gave the veteran's-minimum contract in a one-year, $1.3-million deal for Jason Kapono, a sharp-shooter who played for UCLA.
We are pursuing big deals right now, Kupchak said this week. That has not changed. More than one big deal. But there could be more than one big deal that involves players other than the two you're thinking about.