Lakers need to maintain focus regarding trades
The trade talk surrounding Dwight Howard and Chris Paul will continue to evolve. But the Lakers' pursuit of them must remain the same.
That doesn't mean the tactics won't change. Sometimes they will have to increase their aggressiveness when it appears Howard or Paul could bolt to another team. Sometimes they will have to adopt patience when it's clear the Magic or Hornets are trying to pit the bidders against each other.
But the Lakers' interest in them shouldn't suddenly dwindle should no one immediately acquire them once training camp begins Friday. It's possible Howard and Paul could continually play for their respective teams for part of the season, much as the drama surrounding Carmelo Anthony last season unfolded. It'd be unwise, however, for the Lakers to suddenly feel OK with the current roster opening training camp.
Regardless of the players' insistence, it can't win the title with last year's team; the compressed 66-game schedule will immediately expose their basketball mileage. Addressing that through free-agency signings can only do so much, considering the Lakers are limited to the veteran's minimum ($1 million) and the mini-mid level exception (three years, $9 million). But trading some of their key parts, including Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum, as center pieces toward acquiring Howard and/or Paul would immediately rectify that.
But this is where it becomes a poker game. If the Lakers show their hand too early, the Magic and Hornets will try add as much baggage as they can in the deal, including Hedo Turkoglu (three years, $35 million) or Gilbert Arenas (three years, $62.4 million).
Despite the patience such a pursuit requires, however, the Lakers have to maintain their aggressiveness. Dropping the ball on this courtship could prove more consequential than any injury or potential game-winner falling short.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Dwight Howard, left, and Chris Paul can become free agents after this season, putting pressure on Orlando and New Orleans to get something in return before the perennial All-Stars walk away. Credits: Kim Klement / US Presswire, left; Bill Kostroun / Associated Press