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Howard is added to Lakers’ conversations

By Mike Bresnahan, Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — As the Lakers progressed on reworking their trade proposal for Chris Paul, another possibility blew in their direction, wearing a Superman cape.

The Lakers were told they were one of three teams allowed to try to negotiate a deal with the agent for Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, according to a person familiar with Orlando’s thinking who was not authorized to speak publicly about the situation.

The other teams granted permission to talk to Howard’s agent were New Jersey and Dallas.

The development represented another twist in an already frenetic week, the Lakers agreeing to a trade with New Orleans for Paul, only to get rebuffed Thursday by the NBA.

The Hornets were told by the NBA they did not get enough young talent in the original deal, which meant the need to add additional draft picks or, obviously, younger players.

“They’re re-engaging,” said a person familiar with negotiations. “It’s possible something could be put back together.”

The original deal included Pau Gasol going to Houston and Lamar Odom to New Orleans. The Hornets also would have acquired Luis Scola, Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic from Houston, as well as a first-round draft pick from the Rockets.

NBA Commissioner David Stern released a statement earlier Friday in which he said New Orleans was “better served with Chris in a Hornets uniform than by the outcome of the terms of that trade.”

If an updated proposal is accepted by the league, and Odom and Gasol are traded, the Lakers have only one notable piece to offer Orlando: center Andrew Bynum.

Howard and Paul, both 26, can become free agents after the season, which is forcing their teams to try to gain assets before their stars leave without compensation.

Odom and Gasol were still on the Lakers’ roster Friday but practically absent among teammates, their destination unknown for now as the Lakers lurched and lolled through the first day of training camp.

Odom was not present as the Lakers congregated at their El Segundo facility, missing General Manager Mitch Kupchak’s speech to the team about the need to maintain professionalism despite the surrounding chaos.

“To me, I would think it’s better to stay away,” Odom told the Los Angeles Times in a telephone interview. “You know, the energy and all. I don’t know how it’s going to go right now. It’s a little weird.

“I don’t know if (a trade is) going to happen overnight or it’s going to be a drawn-out process. Right now, I’ll be a fan of the game from the distance.”

Odom eventually showed up at the Lakers’ training facility, spoke to Kupchak, and left.

Gasol was there when practice started but did not take part in it because of what the Lakers said was a strained quadriceps. He was devastated by news of the original trade Thursday but tried to put it behind him, as per a post on his Twitter account Friday.

“No matter what ends up happening, I’ll always be the person and the player that I am,” he wrote. “Everything will work itself out.”

Paul participated in a Hornets practice but did not talk to reporters.

Kobe Bryant seemed to feel for his teammates, or ex-teammates, or whatever Gasol and Odom would be called.

“Unfortunately, it’s just the nature of the beast,” he said. “Owners can make trades. At the end of the day, you’ve just got to do your job. You can only control so much.”

Was Bryant surprised Stern nixed the trade?

“He can do whatever … he wants,” he said. “He’s the commissioner.”

Lakers point guard Derek Fisher had the tricky role of being a teammate of Gasol’s and Odom’s but also president of the players union.

He disagreed with the NBA’s decision to “hold up a trade in the fashion that they have” and lamented the loss of “freedom of movement in the (NBA) system … There shouldn’t be all these reasons why or why not a guy gets traded.

“It’s dangerous for a league to actually have ownership in a team to begin with because of these types of circumstances. Most importantly, the players that are involved, the teams that are involved … these things change peoples’ careers and their livelihoods.”

Under the original proposal, the Hornets would have ended up with Odom (32), Scola (31), Martin (28) and Dragic (25).

“The truth of the matter is they need to get younger if they’re going to trade one of the top 10 players in the league,” said a person familiar with why the trade was nixed.

The Lakers tried to press onward with a lighter moment provided by Bryant, who had a minor but innovative procedure on his ailing right knee during the off-season.

How does it feel now?

“You’ll see,” he said, smiling confidently.

(Times staff writer Broderick Turner contributed to this report.)
©2011 the Los Angeles Times

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