It is no secret that the Los Angeles Lakers would like to trade for Dwight Howard or Chris Paul, but sources with knowledge of the situation say the Lakers actually have something greater in mind: acquiring both players.
Hoping to pull off a pair of blockbuster moves that would rock the NBA, the Lakers are willing to trade anyone on their roster outside of Kobe Bryant to bring Howard and Paul to Los Angeles, two sources said.
Whether the Lakers are able to make it happen remains to be seen, but with stars Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom on the roster, they have the talent and the financial capacity to make the trades work.
The Lakers have had cursory discussions with New Orleans about Paul within the past few days. It is not clear whether they have spoken with Orlando.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak would not comment when asked about the Lakers' intentions to trade for both superstars, but in addressing general trade rumors surrounding his team, he gave the company line, saying the Lakers are happy with their current squad.
"This time of year, there are a lot of rumors going around," Kupchak said in a telephone conversation. "I'm aware of them and I'm not going to comment. Our comments have been pretty consistent -- this group can contend, so we'll just play it out. Nothing is about to happen. It's much too early in the season.
"We don't even have a collective bargaining agreement to refer to."
While Paul's first choice is to join buddies Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire on the New York Knicks, he would sign a long-term contract to stay with the Lakers, according to a source with knowledge of Paul's thinking. And Howard's fondness for Los Angeles is well-known, leaving no doubt that he would commit to the Lakers long-term.
Sources say Paul and Howard have had several conversations with each other about the possibility of playing together on various teams.
Several trade combinations would work for the Lakers. For instance, they could send Gasol to New Orleans for Paul, and Bynum to Orlando for Howard. If the Lakers threw Odom into the trade to Orlando, they could sweeten the offer for the Magic by taking back the contract of Hedo Turkoglu.
"The Lakers are interested in trying to do something for both (Paul and Howard)," a Western Conference executive said. "I would hate to see it happen. I want Howard to stay in the East and Paul to go to the East.
"If it does happen, it'll make things much harder for us."
The Lakers are not the only team in Los Angeles that's thinking big.
Sources say the Clippers also have intentions to go after both Howard and Paul. And like the Lakers, the Clippers are positioned -- financially and talent-wise to make such a move.
Unlike the Lakers, the Clippers would not have to make two trades. They could use their wealth of young talent to trade for either Paul or Howard and then sign the other as a free agent next summer when they'll have enough cap room to offer a maximum-salary contract. The one player the Clippers will not offer in a trade is Blake Griffin.
"The Lakers have company (in going after Howard and Paul)," another Western Conference official said. "The Clippers are doing the same thing."
Senior writer Chris Broussard covers the NBA for ESPN The Magazine.