Winderman: Lakers can get Howard, if they wait - NBC Sports

Winderman: Lakers can get Howard, if they wait
AP
Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard (12) tries to shoot the ball as Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum (17) defends during the second half of Game 2 of the NBA basketball finals Sunday, June 7, 2009, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
February 10, 2011, 1:02 pm

Let's see:

You don't trade Andrew Bynum because it compromises the Lakers' size advantage.

You don't trade Andrew Bynum because it compromises the Lakers' already questionable defense.

You don't trade Andrew Bynum for Carmelo Anthony because Jim Buss loves the guy to pieces.

Fair enough. All (except the latter) legitimate points.

But here's another one: You don't trade Andrew Bynum now because you will need him to be available for a trade later.

Putting aside the possibilities of Carmelo Anthony, instead consider the possibilities of Dwight Howard. A Magic center jumping to the brighter lights of the Lakers? Never heard that one before.

To combine two rumors into one (sort of the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup of conjecture), consider that Howard has the right to opt out of his contract after next season. That should make Howard next season's Anthony, a player who will find himself in his own whirlwind of midseason rumors.

But then consider the possibilities. Having lived through the Shaq saga, the Magic is well aware of how it all can come apart if left to blind faith. Yes, Dwight is insisting he isn't thinking about going anywhere right now.

Right now, of course, he doesn't have the option. He will at the end of 2011-12.

So then merge today's hottest rumor (Carmelo to the Lakers for Bynum!) to next season's hysteria (Dwight leaving the Magic!), and then consider this: Bynum for Howard in 2012.

Unlike with the Shaq episode, the Magic not only get a replacement in the middle, but a young replacement, one, who, when you consider the alternatives, might instantly become the best center in the Eastern Conference (no, really, seriously, with all due respect to Andrew Bogut, Joakim Noah, Al "His Father Says He's Not a Center" Horford and Brook Lopez).

Beyond that, the possibility of landing Howard could prove so enticing to the Lakers that they might even be willing to absorb the dreadful mistake currently known as Gilbert Arenas` contract. The Magic might even be able to squeeze Lamar Odom out of the deal.

Of course, move Bynum now for Carmelo and that opportunity goes out the window for the Lakers, who then only would have an extended Carmelo to offer for Howard. (It sort of would be like where the Knicks stand now, without first-round picks and much in the way of tradable assets because of last summer's free-agency desperation.)

No, Dwight Howard isn't going anywhere right now.

But he could be in play next season, and that should have the Lakers playing this season out and instead considering the possibilities of next February.

And years beyond.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.



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