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Hornets guard Chris Paul reportedly expresses interest in joining Lakers

July 21, 2010 | 10:08 pm

Chris Paul

What started as a toast soon became a declaration. Only 11 days after New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul proclaimed at Carmelo Anthony's wedding that the two would "form our own Big Three," with New York Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire, CBSSports.com's Ken Berger reports that Paul wants the Hornets to trade him. One of Paul's prospects would fulfill the prophecy he made at Anthony's wedding. One of the others would make fans of the defending champions jump up and down in excitement and suddenly wonder why they made such a 24-hour fuss over Harvard guard Jeremy Lin.

"Paul's list of preferred destinations consists of the Knicks, Magic and Lakers, and members of his inner circle already have sent word to the Hornets of his desire to be traded to one of those teams, sources say," Berger writes. "If Paul has his way, he's played his last game in a Hornets jersey."

Whether that translates to Paul joining the Lakers remains to be seen. Nowhere in Berger's report does it indicate that the Lakers share the same interest. Meanwhile, the story makes it clear that New York and Orlando have made progress in pursuing Paul.

Here's Berger on the Knicks' interest: "Team president Donnie Walsh's first step was signing power forward Amare Stoudemire to a five-year, $99.9 million deal. The move wasn't successful in swaying James or Wade, but it represents the first piece of a strategy designed to land Paul, Parker or Anthony -- or perhaps, even two of them. According to sources familiar with the Knicks' strategy, part of the reason for orchestrating the sign-and-trade for David Lee -- which yielded young talents Anthony Randolph and Kelenna Azubuike from Golden State -- was to stock the roster with attractive assets that could be used to acquire such marquee players if the opportunities presented themselves.

Here's Berger on Orlando's interest: "Paul's inclusion of the Magic on his list dovetails with CBSSports.com's report June 30 that star center Dwight Howard has asked Orlando management to pursue a trade for Paul -- although Magic General Manager Otis Smith said by phone Wednesday that he is unaware of such a plan. The team that has most aggressively positioned itself to reap the benefits of CAA's latest power nexus is the Knicks, who struck out in their pursuit of this summer's Big Three but perhaps didn't whiff permanently.

Chris Paul

As far as the Lakers? Well, as I mentioned before, the article doesn't indicate that the Lakers share the same interest. But CBSSports.com's Matt Moore includes the Lakers, Magic, Knicks, Hornets, Cavaliers and Trail Blazers as the teams most likely to get him. With Paul having two years left on his contract worth $34 million, Moore suggests that the most plausible scenario involves trading center Andrew Bynum and a handful of short-term contracts (i.e. Sasha Vujacic and Luke Walton). Though I mentioned earlier Wednesday that Bynum will remain an effective presence inside even if the off-season surgery on his right knee slows him down, I wouldn't be opposed to the deal itself. But I can't help but wonder how that would fundamentally change the way the Lakers play.

Bynum and Pau Gasol mutually benefited from each other inside, and the Lakers' triangle offense flourished when the ball moved from the inside out. Lamar Odom often took advantage of mismatch problems because teams were left worrying about the Lakers' big men or about stopping Kobe Bryant. Odom's versatility gave them a valuable chess piece in that regard. And if Paul played for the Lakers, Derek Fisher presumably would come off the bench, a role he'd accept but that perhaps would dampen his invaluable role in holding the team together.

There's no doubt that teams should be very afraid if Paul arrives in L.A. But his open-court style would change playing alongside Bryant and having to work within the triangle. I imagine Paul and Gasol instantly forming chemistry, but Gasol's effectiveness inside wouldn't be the same without Bynum.

We very well may see Paul's demand for a trade result in him going to a team other than the Lakers, making this post as irrelevant as the post analyzing what Lin could bring to the team. But if Paul happens to join the defending champions, the question wouldn't be so much how would he fit in the team as how  the Lakers' system and personnel would fit with the new acquisition.

-- Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter: twitter.com/latmedina. E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Hornets point guard Chris Paul reportedly listed the Lakers as one of three teams he's like to play for next season. Credit: Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times

Photo: If Paul joined the Lakers, the move would add speed to the backcourt. Credit: Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times


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