The news of the morning comes from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, who reports that despite Celtics president Danny Ainge’s statements to the contrary earlier this week, Boston is indeed trying to move Rajon Rondo in a trade to acquire Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets.
From a story filed in the pre-dawn hours of this morning by Woj: “The Celtics have relentlessly pursued Paul and have presented the Hornets with as many as eight different scenarios that would bring them some combination of Rondo, Jeff Green, two future No. 1 picks and additional talent from third teams, sources said. Celtics general manager Danny Ainge and coach Doc Rivers believe they can sell Paul on re-signing with Boston for the long-term and desperately want him as the franchise star of their post-Big 3 era. … The Hornets had been hopeful they could choose between Clippers and Warriors packages that included Eric Gordon and Stephen Curry, respectively, but New Orleans GM Dell Demps has been told those players are off limits. This has brought the Hornets back to Rondo and the Celtics’ offer, which, as currently constituted, could be the most attractive to the Hornets. … The Hornets had been hopeful they could choose between Clippers and Warriors packages that included Eric Gordon and Stephen Curry, respectively, but New Orleans GM Dell Demps has been told those players are off limits. This has brought the Hornets back to Rondo and the Celtics’ offer, which, as currently constituted, could be the most attractive to the Hornets. … The Lakers are still lurking for Paul, sources said. A possible deal with the Lakers would likely focus on Andrew Bynum. Paul and Kobe Bryant have talked by phone in the past week, sources said. Golden State is willing to offer guard Monta Ellis and young forward Ekpe Udoh as part of a package for Paul, but the talks are unlikely to progress if the Warriors continue to refuse to part with Curry.”
“A source who has spent time recently with Paul insisted yesterday that the Hornets star considers the Celtics a non-starter for his career, and has no intention of signing an extension to play with the C’s in the long term. The team is simply too old to stir his interest. “Their window is just too short for him,” said the source. “He looks on them as having one year left to do something, and that’s it.”
Marc Stein and Chris Broussard of ESPN.com are reporting that the New York Knicks have not even made an offer to the Hornets, Marc Berman of the New York Post says trade possibilities between the teams are “dead,” and Sam Amick of SI.com says the Lakers are now Paul’s preferred destination.
From Amick’s story: No matter how badly Paul wants to join forces with Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, it seems clear that he realizes he can’t get to New York via trade this season. As a result, his new favorite destination, I’m told, is the Lakers. But what it would take to get him there remains to be seen. Lakers center Andrew Bynum is the prized piece because of his age (24) and, when healthy, his two-way impact, but he’s not a good fit with incumbent center Emeka Okafor. The Hornets’ veteran is owed a combined $40.4 million over the next three years and might have to be sent out (possibly to a third team) in such a deal. Forward Pau Gasol is also believed to be in play, but the 31-year-old whose playoff performance raised questions about his game wouldn’t fit as nicely into a rebuilding effort. Still, he’s a four-time All-Star with good years left who has no shortage of value. In much the same way as I was told “everyone but Dirk” is being made available by the Mavericks for Paul, the Lakers could find themselves discussing everyone on their roster not named Kobe.
Meanwhile, in Orlando, there has still not been a peep out of Dwight Howard other than a few tweets — one complaining about his receding hairline, the other joking that he had signed a five-year deal with the Mighty Ducks.
Howard will likely speak Friday when training camps open (assuming the collective bargaining agreement is ratified by the players, who have until 4 p.m. to vote, and the owners, who are holding a Board of Governors meeting today in New York.)
No word yet on whether Daralene Jones of WFTV in Orlando will grill Howard as mercilessly as she did with outgoing Magic CEO Bob VanderWeide, as shown on Deadspin in this clip from yesterday’s news conference to announce the ascension of Alex Martins, who started out in the Magic’s p.r. department, as the new head honcho.
Orlando Sentinel columnist Brian Schmitz weighed in on the No. 1 topic in Central Florida:
“Alas, the disconnect between the Magic and Howard is painfully obvious, along with the anxiety in the atmosphere. They don’t have him in hand. Smith and everyone else tried to paint the rosiest picture possible of the Howard saga, which is the Magic way. Perhaps one of two things have happened since they’ve talked to Howard: 1) The Magic have either gotten bad vibes from Dwight, if not a definite answer or 2) they have gotten good vibes from Dwight but are powerless this season to do anything major to improve his stay, unless Chris Paul demands to be traded here. The Magic might need another year or more to do some dramatic salary-cap maneuvering to make room for another star, which would require Howard’s faith and patience on the dotted line. All they can offer him now is a mission statement (win a title, repeated many times Wednesday). Howard knows that the Magic, as assembled, are not legitimate contenders. They don’t have the assets to appease Paul’s or Deron Williams’ team, either. The Magic are trying to romance Dwight with a promise, and a lot more money. Vander Weide told me that Howard can make $30 million in the fifth year of an extension in the new CBA — much more than he can make elsewhere. … Smith and Martins made it abundantly clear that if Dwight wants out, it’s on Dwight, not the franchise. Back in the day, Shaq spun it the other way. Vander Weide vowed that the DeVos family will not allow Howard to walk without compensation, as Shaq did. Don’t be surprised if Smith waits until the deadline to trade him, all the while working on Howard. The Magic could make Dwight and the Lakers twist in the wind. Smith said that, “Mentally, D12 is in a good place,” whatever that means. What place is that? Orlando? L.A.? New York? Paul’s limo? Howard certainly is in a good place. He is wanted by everyone, although Smith took offense to the notion that Dwight is running the franchise. Smith said the club was “not listening” to everything Howard demands and wasn’t going overboard to “placate” him.”