Dwight Howard reportedly traded to Lakers

Is the soap opera finally over? It looks like the Los Angeles Lakers are finally getting Dwight Howard as part of a 4-team deal:

The Lakers will send All-Star center Andrew Bynum to the Philadelphia 76ers, who also will receive shooting guard Jason Richardson from the Orlando Magic. The Sixers will send guard Andre Iguodala to the Denver Nuggets. The Magic will receive Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic, rookie swingman Moe Harkless and three first-round draft picks.

Earlier reports that Pau Gasol would be part of the deal didn’t materialize.

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Did the NBA screw up the new collective bargaining agreement?

In discussing the possibility of a Dwight Howard deal and the rumors of Andrew Bynam going to Cleveland, Terry Pluto points out some strange new rules in the CBA that make a deal very unlikely.

1. There are at least 40 million reasons why Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum won’t sign contract extensions to help complete a trade. That’s right, 40 million, as in about $40 million. Howard and Bynum are under contract through the 2012-13 season. If they are traded and sign an extension now, it can be for no longer than three years.

2. That’s why Howard’s agent has said his client has no interest in signing an extension now. He’ll wait for free agency. The new labor agreement changed the rules on players signing extensions before free agency. It made it wiser for players to wait to become free agents because they can sign longer, more lucrative deals. (So much for helping teams keep their stars.)

3. Bynum is expected to follow the same path as Howard. Why sign a three-year deal in the $60 million range when he can wait a year, and sign for more than $100 million over five seasons?

4. Any agent that takes a contract extension for a prime-time player in the final year of his contract is either giving poor advice or has a client — who because of injuries — wants security now. That’s why every proposed deal for Howard has been a mess. He won’t commit to a contract now because he can get so much more later.

Dwight Howard is taking a lot of heat for his flip-flops on what he wants to do, but it’s hard to blame him for this CBA quirk that seems to be making it much harder to get deals done. Also, as Pluto points out, it makes it much harder for teams to lock up and keep their star players.

Lamar Odom traded to the Mavs

Dallas Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzski, right, goes up to block a shot off Los Angeles Lakers’ Lamar Odom in the second half of Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals on May 4, 2011. The Mavericks defeated the Lakers 93-81and lead the best-of-seven playoff series 2-0. UPI/Christine Cotter

The Dallas Mavericks acquired Lamar Odom from the Los Angeles Lakers, which will have ripple effects throughout the NBA as teams try to finalize rosters in this chaotic period following the NBA lockout. Above you see a photo of Odom battling Dirk Nowitzski last year in the NBA playoffs. Instead of working to get revenge for the Lakers, Odom will now be a crucial part of the Dallas effort to return to the NBA finals.

This trade signals the end of the bizarre saga surrounding the Chris Paul trade that was rejected by David Stern. That controversial decision has rocked the NBA, and now we’ll be hearing about it over and over again as New Orleans tries to unload Paul to another team. The Lakers decided to back out of the talks rather than submit a new trade from Chris Paul to the league, and in dealing Odom put an abrupt end to that scenario. Meanwhile, the Lakers now seem to be focusing their attention on acquiring Dwight Howard in a deal that would involve Andrew Bynum.

As for the Mavericks, this trade for Odom became possible when they decided to work a deal with the New York Knicks when it became clear they would be losing center Tyson Chandler to the Knicks. That gave the Mavs an $11 million trade exception which they then used to acquire Odom. Odom made it clear he didn’t want to leave LA, but the powers that be clearly decided to go in another direction.

Dallas has more moves to make as it reworks in roster in the wake of losing Chandler. Chandler was a very important piece of their championship puzzle, but he’s the kind of player that can be replaced. Dallas is now one of the teams that might get a shot at landing Dwight Howard as the Orlando Magic have permitted them along with the Lakers and the New Jersey Nets. There’s also buzz out there that Vince Carter will land in Dallas as well. Carter can still score, but he’s not the kind of player one thinks of to help a championship team. Maybe he’ll be better in a reduced role.

The Dwight Howard sweepstakes will be the next big story that will have ripple effects around the league. We’ll see how serious Dallas is in that contest.

Five questions about the Lakers

Mike Brown (C) is flanked by Los Angeles Lakers’ owner Jerry Buss (R) and his son, Vice President of Basketball Operations Jim Buss (L) following a news conference to announce Brown as the team’s new head coach in El Segundo, California on May 31, 2011. Brown replaces Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who retired at the end of this season. UPI/Jim Ruymen

By special request (this is for you, Jester), I’ll take a stab at ESPN’s 5-on-5 on the Lakers.

1. Fact or Fiction: Mike Brown was the right hire.

Fiction. He’s not a terrible hire, because he is very defensive-minded, and defense is something the Lakers struggled with last season. And he has experience coaching a moody superstar, so there’s that. But offensively, the Cavs were dreadful under his guidance even though they had one of the best offensive players in the league. In five years with LeBron, he wasn’t able to convince him to develop a post game, so does he have the fortitude to “coach up” Andrew Bynum? I’m not sure I can think of a coach who is better suited for the job, but honestly, I’m not going to try too hard.

2. Fact or Fiction: Kobe Bryant is the best player in the West.

Are you kidding? Fiction. All due respect to Kobe, but Dirk Nowitzki is the current King of the West and Kevin Durant and Chris Paul are both also ahead of Bryant, in my opinion. Nowitzki’s playoff run was epic, and Kobe had a chance to stop it — but couldn’t. There were opportunities in that series where the old Kobe would have taken over and willed his team to a win and those opportunities passed the current Kobe by.

3. The Lakers need to …

…acquire a superstar. This is easier said than done, but perhaps the rights to Andrew Bynum would garner Dwight Howard or Chris Paul if the Magic or Hornets were convinced that they were on their way out of town. It’s important that the superstar acquired is not a wing, because that’s not going to work with Kobe. But he’d welcome an opportunity to play with Howard or Paul.

4. Fact or Fiction: L.A. should deal Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol.

Were you not listening? Yes, Bynum and his shaky knees have to go and the franchise needs to bring in a superstar to build around after Kobe hangs ’em up. They need to target a franchise that is about to get LeBron’ed, and the Magic and Hornets immediately jump to mind. Of course, this is all moot because Jim Buss is reportedly running basketball operations at this point and Bynum is his guy, so he’s not going anywhere. The Lakers could try to move Gasol, but with his salary and age, his value is not nearly as high.

5. Fact or Fiction: The Lakers will win another title with the current core.

Fiction. It could happen, especially in an abbreviated 2011-12 season, if there even is one, but I wouldn’t bet on it. They would be the type of contender that could capitalize if other teams in the West (or the Heat) faltered. But the last time I saw these Lakers I thought they were done. They were completely disjointed and had terrible chemistry — and chemistry was never their strong suit. They got by on effort and execution, and I don’t think they’ll bounce back in these areas on the heels of Phil Jackson’s departure.

Should the Lakers pursue Dwight Howard?

Orlando Magic’s center Dwight Howard (L) drives against Los Angeles Lakers’ center Andrew Bynum during first half NBA basketball action in Orlando, Florida, February 13, 2010. REUTERS/Kevin Kolczynski (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Kevin Pelton of ESPN says not so fast. (Insider subscription required, unfortunately.)

Should Howard make it clear that he wants to leave Orlando when his contract expires, the Lakers will be a logical trade destination because of the bright lights of L.A. and their ability to offer Andrew Bynum to the Magic. In the long run, making Howard the latest superstar center to wear Forum blue and gold would be a way for the Lakers to prepare for a future in which Kobe Bryant is no longer the team’s go-to player. Still, the transition would be painful in the short term, depending on what the Lakers had to deal in such a scenario.

Behind Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, post depth has long been a weakness for the Lakers. To get Howard, they’d likely have to surrender two of their three stalwarts. The Lakers have been able to survive for stretches without Bynum by playing Gasol and Odom heavy minutes, but that has taken its toll over time and going with just two reliable big men for an entire season would be difficult.

There’s a saying… don’t cut off your nose to spite your face. And that’s exactly what the Lakers would be doing if they did not seize the opportunity to trade for Dwight Howard, whether it costs some combination of Bynum, Gasol or Odom or not.

Howard represents a life after Kobe for the Lakers and giving up front court depth is a small price to play for that long-term positioning. Bynum would almost surely be involved in any potential deal for Howard, so the question is whether or not it’s worth giving up Gasol or Odom to get the Magic to bite. To me, that’s a no-brainer. Make the deal and then sign someone like Kurt Thomas to backup your big men.

Depth on the front line is hard to come by but so are bona fide franchise centers. Do the deal.

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