UPDATE (6:24 pm PT): Well... this just got awkward.
Sources tell ESPN.com's Marc Stein the deal has hit a snag, as a group of NBA owners-- remember, the league owns the Hornets-- has raised strong objections to New Orleans sending Chris Paul to the star-laden Lakers and asked David Stern to intervene to block the trade.
"The deal is off," one source tells ESPN.
Much (much, much, much, much) more to come, I'm sure
Among the things we learned today on the last day of voluntary workouts in El Segundo is that Steve Blake doesn't care if he starts or not. Good thing, because the Lakers have acquired Chris Paul from the Hornets in exchange for Pau Gasol (likely on his way to Houston) and Lamar Odom.
More information is likely to come through over the next few days, I would think, but in the interim, here are some of the big questions in the immediate aftermath:
1. How does this impact Kobe Bryant?
In the newest edition of The Forum, we discussed if given a choice between Paul and Dwight Howard, which way the Lakers should go. The answer was Howard, not only because he represents an upgrade over Andrew Bynum at center, but the smallest amount of fundamental change for how the Lakers play. They'd still be constructed around a pair of bigs, and Kobe. Now, they have one high-end big, and an elite point guard.
It's great in theory, but it thrusts the Lakers and Bryant into uncharted territory. He's never played with an elite point guard, or even a high-end one since L.A. parted with Nick Van Exel. With Paul, the Lakers have a guy who will, or at least should, dominate the ball in a way Kobe always has. Don't get me wrong - there's plenty of potential in the pairing. It could be cosmically awesome, and help extend Kobe's life as an elite player. For the record, I think it'll work. Kobe respects Paul to the upteenth degree, and understands how important it is for this all to go swimmingly. But in his 16th year, he'll have to change how he operates, which is no easy task.
2. How does it impact Paul?
You don't bring him here unless he's allowed to do what he does, but at the same time, it doesn't make much sense to turn Kobe into an off-ball, weakside player, either. Playing with a guy like Kobe is going to require adjustment on his part, as well.
3. What does this mean for the Howard thing?
The Lakers still have Bynum, and if the plan is still to push for Howard, Drew is obviously the chip. That they can hold on to him in the Paul deal is obviously huge, but will it be enough to entice the Magic? Moving Odom leaves the Lakers short the other half of their presumptive trade for Howard. What can the Lakers add to replace him? Surely other teams will offer something more impressive than Bynum and L.A.'s remaining flotsam and jetsam.
4. How does it impact the present?
The backcourt is absurd, but who do the Lakers line up at forward? Where they once had the most formidable and versatile frontcourt in the NBA, the purple and gold are now frightfully thin up front, pending any additional moves bringing more players back to Los Angeles. The Lakers now have Bynum, no power forward, no backup power forward, and no backup center unless you count Derrick Caracter. Maybe Ron Artest can move to the 4, but he's hardly an ideal solution. And by the way, Bynum can't play the first five games of the season.
More moves have to be coming.
So while the Lakers now have their next superstar, they are, at this very moment, not a better team. With the right moves they will be, but right now, they're not. They have given up a ton of material and left their roster unbalanced. The luxury of two 7-footers (more or less) as skilled as Gasol and Odom is very, very difficult to overstate.
Moreover, they've just added a massive amount of complication to Mike Brown's first season. With virtually no training camp at his disposal, Brown now must install a new system on both ends of the floor with a roster now undergoing massive upheaval.
UPDATE (5:53 pm PT): Via ESPN.com's Larry Coon, if the deal remains as currently constructed, the Lakers would acquire two trade exceptions, one worth $8.9 million (Odom's salary) and another worth about $2.3 million representing the difference in Gasol and Paul's salaries.
This would give the Lakers great flexibility in trying to fortify the roster.
5. What if Bynum stays?
If Bynum really has developed the 15-footer he's been working on for a while, but hasn't really needed because of Pau's presence, fans could have reason to be more excited about the pairing of Bynum and Paul than Paul and Kobe. If CP3 thought Tyson Chandler was the greatest thing since sliced bread, he's going to love Drew, who has more offensive game and the softest hands of any center in the NBA.
An argument can be made that offensively at least, the Lakers are better off with Bynum than Howard in a pairing with Paul (assuming good health for Bynum, of course).
6. So what happens if Paul's knee goes wonky?
Don't even ask.