Howard, Bynum audition amid trade rumors

BY foxsports • January 19, 2012

MIAMI - At the end of The Beatles song “Get Back,’’ John Lennon is heard quipping, “I hope we passed the audition.’’

It will be like that with Orlando center Dwight Howard on Friday night against the Lakers. Howard is a such a star he hardly needs to pass an audition to prove he's worthy of being traded to Los Angeles.

As for Lakers center Andrew Bynum, it might be a different story. He could be auditioning for his own team.

If Bynum plays well Friday, might that make the Lakers less likely to put together a package in which Bynum could be sent to the Magic for Howard? Howard's requested to be traded, preferably to the Lakers, Clippers, New Jersey or Dallas. Another piece being mentioned in that scenario would be Pau Gasol going to Orlando.

“Mostly, Andrew is going to be matched up with him (Friday), so Andrew might have more there to prove,’’ said Gasol, who spoke to FOX Sports Florida about the situation while in Miami for Thursday’s 98-87 loss to the Heat.

Gasol added he doesn’t believe the Lakers have anything to prove Friday, and it’s a chance to get a win in a “tough place.’’ He was referring to the Amway Center, but there are several teams who find themselves in a tough place as the March 15 trade deadline approaches.

One, of course, is the Magic. Do they risk not moving Howard by then and possibly losing him for nothing next summer if he opts out of his contract and becomes a free agent?

Another is the Lakers. In a deal for Howard, are they willing to part with Bynum -- a rising star -- while perhaps also giving up Gasol, a four-time All-Star? Perhaps more will be known Friday after Bynum goes against Howard -- even if Bynum is downplaying it.

“It’s going to be fun,’’ Bynum said. “I don’t really think it’s that big of a matchup. It’s just a regular season game for me. I want to go out and play hard, and I’m going to try to score, and I’m sure he is, too. … Everybody else is saying (it’s a big matchup between the two), but not me. I’m just going to play my game.’’

He’s been displaying pretty impressive game of late. After totaling 15 points and 12 rebounds against Miami, Bynum's averaging 16.3 points and 13.8 rebounds for the year.

Bynum, 24, clearly has become the NBA’s second-best center after Howard, 26, a five-time All-Star averaging 20.1 points and an NBA-best 15.6 rebounds. Barring a trade or injury, the two will face off as starters in the Feb. 26 All-Star Game in Orlando.

Hearing his name in trade rumors has been old hat for Bynum. He said it once bothered him, but he’s moved past that.

“I’m in every trade rumor,’’ Bynum said. “So I’m used to that. Like (for) everybody you can get. So it doesn’t really bother me too much anymore. It did at first, but not anymore. … My first trade rumor (was bothersome), like four years ago for Jason Kidd (who was then with New Jersey before being sent to Dallas), I think it was. But not anymore.’’

Such thick skin is no doubt good news for the Lakers. Lamar Odom was set to be traded last month to New Orleans in a three-team deal that would have brought Chris Paul to the Lakers. The trade was nixed by the NBA, but Odom was so upset about having been included that the Lakers eventually were forced to ship him to Dallas.

Gasol also was about to be traded to Houston in that proposed deal. He’s taken a different attitude about it while knowing he still could be moved.

“I’m just looking at the big picture,’’ said Gasol, 31, who totaled 26 points and eight rebounds against the Heat and is now totaling 16.5 points and 9.4 boards on the year. “I look at it from a much broader (sense) and just remembering how much good it has done for me just being (with the Lakers) for the amount of time that I have been here. If the team decides to go in a different direction -- and believes that, for whatever reason, to move me -- so be it.’’

Gasol, whose career changed dramatically after being traded from Memphis to the Lakers in February 2008, certainly knows he’s been linked to Orlando.

“Obviously, there’s talks and there’s rumors,’’ said Gasol, who said he isn’t approaching Friday’s game any differently. “Dwight wants to be out of there, supposedly. Right? Supposedly. And I know the Lakers is one of his favorite, or is probably his best, his top destination there.’’

The NBA’s best centers always have found a way to get to L.A. The list includes Wilt Chamberlain in 1968, Kareem Abdul-Jabber in 1975 and Shaquille O’Neal, who bolted from the Magic to the Lakers as a free agent in 1996.

But might the Lakers end up producing their first great homegrown center? Even the legendary George Mikan had played pro ball elsewhere before leading the Minneapolis Lakers to five titles in the late 1940s and 1950s.

Bynum was drafted by the Lakers in 2005 when he still was 17. Now, O’Neal has told the Los Angeles Times he believes Bynum's the “best big man in the game right now.’’

While few seriously believe Bynum has topped Howard, O’Neal never resists the chance to take a jab at Orlando's man in the middle. But could a strong performance by Bynum at least make the Lakers think twice about possibly shipping him to the Magic?

“Who knows?’’ Gasol said. “I don’t think that if either player has a monster game on either side, it’s going to make a huge difference on what might happen in a month or in a few months.’’

It is the only regular season meeting scheduled between Bynum and Howard during a season shortened to 66 games because of the lockout. Then again, the two could add a more serious element to the All-Star Game when they line up in the jump circle next month.

ANOTHER DREAM TEAM?  

USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo and likely starting forward LeBron James both have predicted it will be fair to compare the 2012 Olympic team to the 1992 Dream Team.

Gasol begs to differ.

“I wouldn’t say that,’’ Gasol said.

Gasol grew up in Barcelona, where Team USA won its gold medal when he was 12. He has talked before about how that team inspired him as well as others overseas to play basketball.

Gasol now plays for Spain, which took the silver medal behind the Americans in 2008. The Spanish team is once again one of the favorites to get to the top of the podium this year in London.

“The Dream Team was pretty unique,’’ Gasol said. “It was one of a kind. For a different reason, not just from a basketball standpoint. … But obviously, (the 2012 Americans) have a great team with amazing players, and they won the gold medal in the last Olympics. They probably will go for it again this year. We’ll try to prevent that from happening if we can. But we’ll let them do what they do, and we’re going to try to play how we play and see what happens.’’
 
Chris Tomasson can be reached at christomasson@hotmail.com or on Twitter @christomasson.


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