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By Andy Roth, Contributing Editor - Archive - Email
The Pulse of the NBA
New York, NY (Sports Network) - With the much ballyhooed NBA trading deadline arriving Thursday, let's take a look at some of the players and teams that highlight the rumor mill:

ORLANDO MAGIC

Dwight Howard. Will he stay or will he go? That's been the big question in Orlando and around the NBA all season long.

It appears the Magic may take the gamble and hold onto Howard with the hope they'll be able to re-sign the six-time All-Star center once he becomes a free agent. But I wouldn't take that risk if I didn't think there was a realistic chance Howard will decide to stay there.

If Orlando decides to pull the trigger on a trade and Howard would be amenable to it, my No. 1 option would be a deal with the Los Angeles Lakers centered around Andrew Bynum. The oft-injured 24-year-old center, who was a first-time All-Star this season, has been healthy and has played in every game after serving a four-game suspension to start the season.

Considering Bynum's age and talent, I think he's the best building block the Magic could acquire for Howard. I wouldn't pursue a deal for a lesser player like the New Jersey Nets' Brook Lopez that might include more attractive draft picks, simply for the fact the draft is an unknown quantity and I'd rather secure the far superior player.

As for Howard, if he truly wants to leave Orlando and his primary goal is to win a championship and not get the biggest contract, then he shouldn't force a trade to his desired team, but rather leave via free agency. By choosing this route, Howard's new team wouldn't have to give up valuable assets like the New York Knicks did with Carmelo Anthony, thus giving Howard and his new team a much better chance to win a championship.

NEW JERSEY NETS

The Nets almost surely will be affected by how the scenario plays out in Orlando, and are in a very similar and precarious situation with Deron Williams as the Magic are with their own impending free agent star. If Howard is traded to a team other than the Nets, they'll likely try to deal their All- Star point guard, but they'll be working with a very short window and no guarantee Williams will agree to sign an extension with his new team, which would likely make a trade impossible at this point.

Aside from the main focus of trying to acquire the Magic's superstar center, Nets general manager Billy King is looking in other directions to improve his team. "It's about trying to add to this team," he said. "We'll look at other things that I was already talking about doing with other teams. Had some things on the table that I'm exploring that will maybe create more cap space for us in the future, maybe bring some more players or some key pieces as we go forward."

But make no mistake, if Howard doesn't land in New Jersey and Williams has a new address next season, then King's plan will have been a major failure and he may find himself on the unemployment line.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Former Lakers great Magic Johnson stated the obvious last week in a tweet after Los Angeles blew a 21-point lead in a loss to the lowly Wizards. "This @Lakers team needs help-trade, trade, trade," Johnson tweeted.

If executive vice president Jim Buss, whom Magic says is running the team and not general manager Mitch Kupchak, doesn't pull off a deal, then Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Bynum should sue for lack of support, because the supporting cast for the "Big Three" is simply awful.

You're a major long shot to win a championship with two washed-up starters in your lineup (Derek Fisher and Metta World Peace) and a really bad bench that has been the lowest-scoring squad in the NBA for most of the season.

The Lakers reportedly don't want to take back additional salary in a trade that would increase their luxury tax payment, but this stance seems ridiculous considering they're the league's highest valued franchise and they signed a new 20-year deal with Time Warner Cable last year that's worth an average of $200 million annually, beginning with the 2012-13 season. The agreement drove the value of the Lakers up an NBA-high 40 percent to $900 million.

If they hope to compete for a championship, the Lakers have to have another player besides Bryant who can both create his own shot and one for his teammates.

Ramon Sessions, who is backing up Kyrie Irving at the point in Cleveland, and is reportedly available for a package of draft picks, would fit that bill nicely.

The fifth-year point guard, who has strictly played with bad teams in Milwaukee, Minnesota and now Cleveland, has a per-36-minute average of 15.8 points and seven assists per game. He would be a huge upgrade over what has to be the worst point guard tandem in the league in the Lakers' Fisher and Steve Blake, and I believe his game would probably improve by finally playing with high-level talent around him, which he'd have with the Lakers.

If Sessions is dealt, it will come against his wishes. He was asked Sunday if wants to remain with the Cavaliers after the deadline and he responded, "Yeah, I like what we have going on," he said. "I like working with the Young Fella (Irving). The guys in here respect me a lot. I definitely like what we have going on."

QUICK DRIBBLES

* Milwaukee Bucks power forward Ersan Ilyasova, who is an impending free agent, has had a really nice season, which includes a number of Kevin Love- like performances. Leading the list is his 29-point, 25-rebound game in a win over the Nets last month in which he played just 36 minutes. He also put up 32 points and 10 rebounds last week against the Chicago Bulls, when the Bucks lost on Derrick Rose's buzzer-beating jump shot, and had 31 points and 12 rebounds in Sunday's win in Toronto.

Ilyasova, who is in his fourth year in the league, is having his best season, and the timing couldn't be better with his impending free agency. He's averaging 12.4 points and 8.9 rebounds in only 27.2 minutes per game, while shooting 48 percent from the field, 43 percent from three-point range and 80 percent from the line.

The Bucks better be ready to come up with the "bucks" if they want to keep Ilyasova in Milwaukee, as he made it clear in a recent interview that the highest bidder will win out.

"When I look at it, I have to remember that it's a business," Ilyasova said. "Some teams overseas wanted to buy out my contract, but I wanted to finish this season in the NBA. This is where I want to be right now, but we will see what happens in the future. Financially, whoever pays me more will be the team that I decide to sign with."

* Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins inserted Evan Turner into the starting lineup last Monday against the Bucks and the initial result was a bit of a mixed bag. Turner, who was the second overall pick in the draft, shot just 1 of 12 from the field and scored only two points, but he had 12 rebounds and four assists as the Sixers lost in Milwaukee. But there's no doubt how good he's been in the last three game, which have all been wins for Philly.

Turner had 26 points and nine rebounds against the Boston Celtics; 16 points, 12 rebounds and six assists versus the Utah Jazz, and 24 points and 15 rebounds Sunday against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

Turner is averaging 12 rebounds per game in those four starts, but what is even more incredible is that his defensive rebounding percentage of 24.3 this season is the highest in the history of the league for a single season among guards or small forwards.

For most of his short career, Turner seemed tentative and lacking confidence too often, but if this is a true sign that he's turned the corner, then the Sixers will be a much more formidable opponent come playoff time. After the horrible 1-for-12 shooting performance in his first start, he's gone 27 of 45 (60 percent).

Obviously, he's not going to continue to shooting the ball that well, but the Sixers need him to be a lot better than the 43 percent he's shot over his career.

Andy Roth covered the Knicks for NBC Radio and AP Radio for eleven years and was an NBA Columnist for Celtics Pride Magazine for two years. He's covered many of the major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, U.S. Open Tennis and Golf.

Copyright 2012

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