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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – For all of the talk about All-Stars Chris Paul and Dwight Howard leaving New Orleans and Orlando, respectively, for the Tri-State area, there’s a team on the left coast that remains a factor in this complicated affair that we should not overlook.
The Los Angeles Lakers, using Andrew Bynum, as their 7-foot ace in the hole, should not be overlooked. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports offers up this pertinent reminder:
In a lot of ways, the Hornets and Orlando Magic are in a race to make a deal with the Los Angeles Lakers for Paul and Howard. They’re running so many scenarios across the big boards in their offices, but make no mistake: Los Angeles is the port that can entice Paul and Howard to sign extensions, with the one player – young center Andrew Bynum – as a centerpiece that can justify the trade.
The Lakers and Hornets talked several days ago, league sources told Yahoo! Sports, but it was one of those circuitous conversations that left the sides unclear what it would take to get a deal done, and the talk ended with no formal offers. The Lakers and Hornets expect to speak again this week, sources said. The prospect of Pau Gasol as the primary player going to the Hornets won’t be acceptable, sources said. The Lakers will ultimately be willing to let New Orleans pick its player in the deal – Bynum or Gasol – but New Orleans is determined to get quality, and quantity, in a deal.
Bynum has privately been heard to say this offseason that he wants his own team, and the chances of him getting that – in New Orleans or Orlando – have never been higher. Years ago, Kobe Bryant wanted Bynum moved for Jason Kidd, but Bryant’s been insistent all summer that he still believes in this core, isn’t interested in wholesale change.
The issue of honoring Bryant’s wishes (or not) is another story. What we do know is this: few teams anywhere can offer a trade piece as enticing as the prospect of Bynum, an oft-injured yet super talented behemoth who still has not reached his ceiling.
With either Paul or Howard in a Lakers uniform, the twilight of Bryant’s career won’t send Lakers fans into a tailspin as they think about what comes next. They’d already have the franchise anchor needed to help rebuild into a championship-level outfit on the roster.
Bynum was supposed to be that heir apparent when he entered the league as a precocious teenager believed to be the next pivot in the Lakers’ long and distinguished line of franchise centers. But injuries stunted that plan. If now is the time to finally make a break for the future, the Lakers couldn’t have pick a better one.
With both Paul and Howard rumored to be in fluid situations right now, the Lakers could be poised to play spoiler yet again on the free agent market (those of us old enough to remember it will never forget the summer Shaq made his way from Orlando to LA) …