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In a stunning development late Saturday night, the three-team talks between the Lakers, Rockets and Hornets that would have sent Chris Paul to Los Angeles collapsed, with the Lakers moving toward trading Lamar Odom instead to the Dallas Mavericks. Odom would be placed into the new traded player exception the Mavericks received earlier Saturday when they completed a three-team trade with New York and Washington that sent Tyson Chandler to the Knicks and Ronny Turiaf to the Wizards.
The Lakers apparently decided to move on while the league was contemplating various versions of the deal, and in doing so potentially cleared the decks to make a bid for Orlando center Dwight Howard. The initial version would have sent Lakers forward Pau Gasol to the Rockets, and sent Odom to New Orleans, with Rockets forward Luis Scola, guards Kevin Martin and Luis Scola, and a 2012 first-round pick going to the Hornets as well. But the NBA, which owns the Hornets, nixed the deal Thursday, citing “basketball reasons” for not letting it go through. The decision was derided when it was disclosed that several owners opposed the deal, thinking it gave the already talent-rich Lakers yet another superstar player, while saddling the Hornets with older and more expensive players.
Owners also were concerned, according to a management source, with the potential sale value of the team with all of the extra salaries the Hornets would be taking on over the next three years. The team had sold 10,000 season tickets this year in New Orleans Arena, and the league is looking to sell the team to an owner who will commit to keeping the team in New Orleans. The league instructed the Hornets to restart talks Friday, according to sources involved in the discussions, with an eye toward getting more young players and draft picks.
But after hours of exploring various scenarios, with the Lakers providing additional picks and the Rockets giving up some more players, the Lakers got tired of waiting.
“The league took too long to decide and may have overplayed its hand,” a source involved in the discussions said late Saturday night.
The collapse of the talks leaves the Hornets frustrated and in an incredibly difficult bind, with just six players in camp and with Paul still seeking to be dealt elsewhere. Several teams, including the Clippers and Celtics, have held off of other potential deals in the hopes that they might somehow be able to get into the Paul Sweepstakes. The Clippers believed late Saturday that there was still a way for them to get involved, but it wasn’t clear what pieces they would be willing to use to try and make an offer to New Orleans. They had adamantly refused to include guard Eric Gordon in any potential trade discussions earlier this week.
Boston had offered a package centered around guard Rajon Rondo, young players and draft picks, but the Hornets weren’t interested.
The Mavericks have already let free agents Chandler and Caron Butler go, and appear to be ready to lose reserve guard J.J. Barea leave as well, citing the need to keep as much cap room as free as possible for the summer of 2012. Odom has two seasons left on his four-year, $32 million deal he signed in 2009, but only $2.4 million of his $8.2 million salary for 2012-13 is guaranteed, which would fall in line with Dallas’ approach for next offseason.
The Lakers would have cleared more than $20 million in cap room by dealing Odom and Gasol for Paul, which many around the league believe they would have tried to use next summer on All-Pro center Dwight Howard. Now it will be much more difficult, though there is still the possibility they could send Gasol elsewhere in a separate deal.
The Lakers, however, were one of three teams that have been given permission to enter into trade talks with the representatives for Howard on Friday, so it is reasonable to assume they’d be willing to package both Gasol and center Andrew Bynum in a deal for Howard. If the Lakers agreed to take back the salary of forward Hedo Turkoglu ($10.6 million this season), the deal could be made easily.