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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The Chris Paul fiasco gives NBA a black eye

The proposed Chris Paul trade to the Los Angeles Lakers has created a firestorm.

The Hornets, who are owned by the league which acquired it from George Shinn a year ago, realized it was unlikely they would be able to retain Paul with a contract extension or in free agency after he opted out of his contract after this season.

So New Orleans general manager Dell Demps, a respected player personnel man who came from the respected San Antonio Spurs, went to work, hoping to get something for Paul instead of nothing if he left in free agency. Or in Stern’s words, “Getting something more for that player in the event he will leave than if he stays.”

Demps, in his second year as GM of the Hornets, arranged a huge three-team trade with the Lakers and the Houston Rockets: Paul to the Lakers; Los Angeles forward Lamar Odom to the Hornets and Los Angeles forward Pau Gasol to the Rockets, who would have sent forward Luis Scola, guards Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic and a first-round draft pick to New Orleans.

Stern got serious pressure from a number of owners, including Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, who fired off a letter to Stern and other owners calling the trade a travesty.

This trade should go to a vote of the 29 owners of the Hornets.

Over the next three seasons this deal would save the Lakers approximately $20 million in salaries and approximately $21 million in luxury taxes. That $21 million goes to non-taxpaying teams and to fund revenue sharing.

I cannot remember ever seeing a trade where a team got by far the best player in the trade and saved over $40 million in the process. And it doesn’t appear that they would give up any draft picks, which might allow to later make a trade for Dwight Howard.

The teams are still talking in an attempt to salvage the deal and they have appealed Stern’s decision.

Meanwhile, Stern and the NBA are being savaged by commentators everywhere. Here’s Bill Simmons and Micheal Wilbon.

Are the Lakers Bynum’s team now?

Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum (L) and guard Kobe Bryant (R) sit on the bench in the final minutes of a loss to the Dallas Mavericks during Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference semi-final basketball playoff in Los Angeles, California May 4, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Roland Lazenby of HoopsHype says that with Jim Buss’ emergence in basketball operations, Andrew Bynum is the centerpiece of the Laker franchise.

Fans will discover they’re witnessing the new Lakers, the ones run by Jim Buss and built to cater in every facet to seven-footer Andrew Bynum, a nice enough 23-year-old kid with a dubious medical past and an even more suspect future.

Yes, aging star Kobe Bryant will still be a part of the equation, but he was put on notice over the summer when Jim Buss hired new coach Mike Brown without so much as a brief discussion with Bryant.

The message is clear: Brown is Bynum’s coach, and the team belongs to the young center as well.

Why did the Lakers hire Brown?

As for offense, Bynum has long made noise that he wants to be more of a priority. Brown was hired after touting his experience as an assistant coach with San Antonio’s big guns team that featured Tim Duncan on offense.

Bryant said little publicly after Brown’s hiring, but he did make it clear that he and Pau Gasol would remain the first two options in the Lakers offense.

Bynum “will have to fall in line,” Bryant has been quoted as saying.

There is trouble brewing in L.A. if the younger Buss wants to feature Bynum over Bryant and Gasol. Kobe does not look like he’s prepared to go quietly into the dark night, and the Lakers will be his team as long as he’s putting on the jersey.

But it appears that instead of trading Bynum for another piece to the championship puzzle, the Lakers are going to build around him. This would be fine if he didn’t have a long, troublesome history of injury, but he does. Can a franchise really depend on those knees?

Worst case scenario is that the Lakers hold onto Bynum and he has more knee trouble after Kobe and Gasol’s age drastically impacts their productivity. The Lakers could be in for some lean years, especially if they recommit to Bynum after his contract expires. But the Lakers are one of the league’s two marquee franchises (along with the Knicks), so it shouldn’t be too difficult to reload, assuming the new salary cap rules allow it.

Miami breaks losing streak by upending Lakers, 94-88

Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade (L) and Chris Bosh celebrate after scoring against the Los Angeles Lakers during fourth quarter NBA basketball action in Miami, Florida March 10, 2011. REUTERS/Hans Deryk (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)

The little things that were going wrong down the stretch for the Miami Heat during their five-game losing streak didn’t go wrong tonight. Dwyane Wade had eight of his 20 points in the fourth quarter and the Heat got a few breaks on the defensive end — Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ non-goaltend, the no-call on Wade’s baseline reach-in on Kobe and LeBron’s box-out flop against Artest — and Miami was able to get one giant monkey off its back.

After a fairly nightmarish game against the Blazers on Tuesday (along with some fairly inappropriate grumbling about the quality of his looks), Chris Bosh came up big, posting 24 points and nine rebounds, outplaying Pau Gasol, who posted 20 points and five boards. Mike Miller (12 points, seven rebounds) was also big off the bench and Mike Bibby (six points) chipped in with two key three-pointers in the second half.

For his part, LeBron James (19 points, nine assists, eight rebounds) didn’t shoot the ball all that well, but his near-triple-double was crucial to the Heat’s success. He made a great decision with 2:49 to play with the Heat nursing a one-point lead. After Wade retrieved his own miss, he kicked it out to LeBron, who had a wide open three, but was 0-for-3 on the night. Instead of taking the open shot, LeBron waited for Wade to get open on the baseline and found him for the easy score. It was a mature play to pass up his own so-so shot to create a great shot for his teammate.

Kobe had 24 points, but after making his first four shots, he went just 4-of-17 for the remainder of the game. Wade did a nice job of staying in his grill and forcing him to take tough shots.

This is a huge win for the Heat, who can finally stop answering questions about why they’re playing so poorly. They host the Grizzlies on Saturday while the Lakers have to visit the Mavericks in Dallas.

Peek inside the head of an NBA owner

Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley is a character. He appeared on the Chris Vernon Show recently and got into a…um…spirited debate over whether or not the Grizzlies should exercise a little-known clause in the collective bargaining agreement that allows for teams to negotiate a performance incentive into rookie contracts.

Xavier Henry is still unsigned due to Heisley’s insistence on this performance incentive. Rookie contracts are generally ‘rubber stamp’ type deals where the player gets the max (120% of the rookie scale) and he signs immediately. Heisley claims that the Grizzlies are not the only team to use this strategy, but he was unwilling to name any names and I certainly haven’t heard of any other teams doing so.

On the show, Heisley is passive-aggressive, condescending and entertaining, and in addition to the Henry negotiations, he defends the Pau Gasol trade, the Zach Randolph acquisition, and his decision to draft Hasheem Thabeet over Ricky Rubio.

Matt Moore of CBSSports called the interview an ‘abject trainwreck,‘ while Chris Harrington of the Memphis Flyer called it ‘borderline-embarrassing.’

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