The Rockets officially amnestied forward Luis Scola, which clears salary cap space to make a dedicated push to land Howard. The Rockets can offer the Magic draft picks, youth and salary cap relief, but they can't offer Orlando general manager Rob Hennigan a player like Andrew Bynum.
According to a recent article by Ken Berger at CBSsports.com, the Magic are still very interested in acquiring Bynum since he represents their best chance at receiving equal value for Howard.
And in another recent twist, Dave Pingalore at clickorlando.com says he has learned through multiple sources that a deal that sends Howard to Los Angeles is imminent.
I'm not sure if Pingalore's rumor can be trusted since it originated within Howard's camp and not from the Magic organization, but for legions of Lakers fans, it's another reason to believe that a Howard deal might be close.
But is it necessary? Does a deal for Howard really make the Lakers better than they are right now?
Howard is definitely superior to Bynum when it comes to strength, quickness and athleticism. But Bynum gets the edge when it comes to pure fundamental skill as a low-post center.
And who knows how much Howard's game will be affected by his recent surgery to repair a disk in his back?
Back injuries have the potential to limit a player's lift, lateral quickness, strength and general mobility. In Howard's case, that's everything that makes him special.
If Howard is completely healthy, it's easy to fantasize about how devastating the Lakers could be on the pick-and-roll with new point guard Steve Nash. But couldn't Bynum be just as effective?
There might be fewer dunks with Bynum on the receiving end of Nash's passes, but a dunk is still only two points, and I would argue that Bynum's superior post instincts could make him a more consistent scorer.
Think about it. Howard only averaged two more points per game than Bynum as the primary offensive threat for the Magic, while Bynum had to share touches with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
And that's with Derek Fisher, Steve Blake and Ramon Sessions manning the lead guard position.
Imagine how effective Bynum could be with an elite pass-first point guard whose perimeter shot is consistent enough to keep any defense honest.
Maybe just as effective as a player coming off back surgery with a less refined post game?
I'm sure there are many people who would jettison Bynum in a heartbeat for the opportunity to acquire a once-in-a-generation player like Howard, and even I am still intrigued by the possibilities of a team that includes Bryant, Nash and Howard on the same roster.
I'm just not sure how much of an upgrade that scenario is over what the Lakers have right now. And I wonder if it's even worth the trouble of finding out.
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