The Lakers pulled off an extraordinary trade last week. Can they do it again this week?
They found themselves back in negotiations Tuesday for Dwight Howard after the collapse of a multi-team deal that would have sent the unhappy Orlando Magic center to the Brooklyn Nets.
In a key development, the Lakers have become more open to taking a fairly bad contract in a trade, the one for Orlando guard-forward Jason Richardson, though they still might need to involve a third team to acquire Howard.
“They’re still trying,” said a person familiar with the talks who was not authorized to speak publicly about them.
Center Andrew Bynum, an All-Star for the first time last season, continues to be the crux of the Lakers’ plan to land Howard, who has one more year and $19.5 million on his contract with Orlando.
Multiple media reports indicated that the Houston Rockets were also engaged in talks with Orlando and could be part of a three-team trade that would send Bynum to the Rockets. Bynum, 24, has one more year on his contract for $16.1 million.
Howard, 26, had surgery three months ago to repair a bulging disk in his back, a procedure that caused him to withdraw from the U.S. Olympic team. The Lakers seem satisfied there will be no long-term complications for the six-time All-Star.
Richardson, 31, has three years and $18.6 million left on his contract. He averaged 11.6 points and 29.5 minutes last season with Orlando. The Lakers could use him as the backup to Kobe Bryant.
Forward Hedo Turkoglu, 33, also has a bad contract with Orlando — two more years, $23.8 million — but the Lakers have no interest in taking him in a trade.
It looked like the Lakers might be done with big moves after acquiring point guard Steve Nash last week from Phoenix for four draft picks and $2.5 million.
But the Nets’ inability to pull off a trade for Howard, who last week publicly stated his intention to play for them, left the door open for Orlando to talk with other teams.
The only deal the Lakers struck Tuesday was with restricted free-agent forward Devin Ebanks, who signed a one-year contract for a little over $1 million. Ebanks, 22, averaged four points in 24 games last season.
The Lakers now have 11 players under contract for about $90 million next season, not including their two second-round draft picks. The NBA announced Tuesday that the salary cap was set at $58.044 million next season and the luxury-tax threshold at $70.307 million.
The Lakers are currently not expected to use the “amnesty” provision, The Times has learned, a device that allows a team to waive one player and not pay luxury taxes on his salary.
They still would have to pay the waived player’s salary but have only until the July 17 deadline to make such a move toward next season. The only players who could be waived under the provision would be Bynum, Bryant, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace and Steve Blake.
Off the court, the Lakers started moving to fill two gaps in Coach Mike Brown’s staff after assistant coach Quin Snyder and team consultant Ettore Messina took coaching jobs with CSKA Moscow, a highly successful Euroleague team.
The Lakers are interested in adding two former NBA head coaches, Eddie Jordan and Bernie Bickerstaff.
Jordan was head coach for Sacramento, Washington and, most recently, Philadelphia, where he was fired after the 2009-10 season. Bickerstaff is currently an assistant with Portland, and the Lakers would need to seek permission to talk with him. Bickerstaff has head-coaching experience with Seattle, Denver, Washington and Charlotte.