Celtics and Lakers to Battle it out for Chris Paul/Dwight Howard Combo
The next Celtics/Lakers battle is looking like it will take place off the court as both teams are eyeing the Chris Paul/Dwight Howard combo. Mark Heisler (a Sheridan Hoops writer) reported yesterday that the Lakers want both Paul and Howard. Presumably they'd trade Bynum for one and Gasol for the other. It was also reported yesterday on RealGM that the Celtics will pursue Dwight Howard. Then today we hear that Ainge is open to trading Rondo. Doesn't take a genius to figure out that in order for the Celtics to acquire both superstars they'd have to trade Rondo for one and then use their 2012 cap space on the other.
While personally I think Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo would make a great combo, I don't think Danny Ainge feels the same. Ainge has attempted to trade Rondo a handful of times in the past and I don't believe he views Rondo as a team centerpiece. The only problem that I see a Rondo/Howard combo posing is that neither can make free throws at the end of a game. Not sure if you can get away with your two best players having to avoid the ball the final two minutes of a game. With Chris Paul you wouldn't have that problem. Personally I would rather the Celtics pay Rondo 9 million a year than Paul a max contract (whatever that may be now, 16 million? 17 million?), but if swapping Rondo for Paul is the price you have to pay to land Howard, then that's a pill you have to swallow.
While the Celtics might want the combo, the Lakers are in a better position to get them. Not because they have more cap space, but because they play 41 games a season in Los Angeles, California (well in a normal season). Howard's first choice is to move to L.A. He also has said Kobe Bryant is the one superstar he'd most like to play with (He'd regret that within 2 weeks of playing with him as Howard's touches would go way down). Then while Chris Paul's first choice is New York, it is believed that L.A. is his second. Fortunately for the C's, players can't always get what they want.
The Lakers don't have the cap space to outright sign either player. The Magic loathe to give in to Howard and trade him to L.A. and go through another Shaq situation. The NBA actually owns the Hornets and after wasting 5 months arguing about the need for parity are they really going to sign off on a Kobe/Howard/CP3 threesome?
Right now this is the early stage of the Howard/CP3 great escape, but expect to hear a lot more as the season moves along. And soon. Both the Hornets and Magic need to move their stars in season in order to max out what they can get for them. The winner of this Celtics/Lakers showdown could determine whether the Celtics remain the winningest NBA franchise or the Lakers overtake them.