One more wrinkle to consider assuming Dwight Howard doesn't have one final change of heart today: When he signs the waiver of the early termination option in his contract, he'll become a free agent on July 1, 2013 -- the same time the contract of Chris Paul expires with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Paul agreed to waive the early termination option in his own contract prior to the deal that sent him from New Orleans to Los Angeles. Uninterested in a one-year rental, the Clippers wanted a guarantee of two seasons from Paul in exchange for the trove of assets they sent to the Hornets.
Right now, it's too early to gauge whether Paul is a satisfied customer with the Clippers. He has stated a strong desire to be in Los Angeles, and the Clippers will always be able to offer him that. Blake Griffin seems like a natural running mate for Paul, but the health of that relationship will ultimately be determined by whether the two of them are playing meaningful basketball late into spring -- if not this year, then certainly in 2013.
The Clippers will still be able to offer Paul more money and more years than any other suitor come July 2013, but if things get bumpy with the Clippers, Paul now has another Top 5 talent whose timetable will coincide with his own -- and that represents a whole lot of leverage for both Paul and Howard.
If they so desired, Paul and Howard could join forces in any number of destinations, including Los Angeles -- a city Howard reportedly likes a whole lot -- or Orlando. For the Magic, it would be relatively simple. They'll have a glut of cap space because Jameer Nelson's contract comes off the books, and the final year of Hedo Turkoglu's deal is unguaranteed.
The Clippers have major commitments to DeAndre Jordan and Caron Butler in 2013-14, and will have to pay Griffin. But if Howard decides he wants to live in a zip code starting with (90), the Clippers could offer the Magic a sign-and-trade package that includes Jordan, Eric Bledsoe and other goodies.
If the Lakers can move Pau Gasol and the $19.3 million owed to him in 2013-14, you can imagine them as major players for a Paul-Howard duo. Ditto the Nets and even the Knicks, if they can wiggle out of their current spreadsheet nightmare.
It's too early to consider all the machinations, but once Howard signs that waiver, the Summer of 2013 just got a little nuttier.