After an asking price that was too high had led to a brief break in trade talks, the Los Angeles Clippers and New Orleans Hornets are again discussing a deal centered on Chris Paul, according to ESPN's Chris Broussard and Marc Stein. Which side should give up some ground to push the trade through? Our five-man team answers that and other pressing questions on CP3 and Dwight Howard:
1. Fact or Fiction: The Clippers have more leverage than the Hornets.
J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: Fact. None of the Clippers' stars have the means and desire to get out of town right now.
Larry Coon, ESPN.com: Fact. The Hornets need to move Chris Paul. The Clippers would like to add him to their roster. David Stern is quickly running out of teams to turn down and is now on his second go-round with the Clips. Either Minnesota's unprotected 2012 first-round pick or Eric Gordon would be a nice get for the Hornets. Stern was over-reaching when he tried to get both, and that may cost the team.
Mark Haubner, The Painted Area: In theory, fact. I don't know whom the Clippers are competing against now, given that the league seems to be seeking young players, and Paul will only commit to a few teams. But in reality, that's apparently fiction if the NBA can extract assets, including Eric Gordon and Minnesota's first-round pick, for the Hornets, which would be a stunning haul.
Mark Shore, ClipperBlog: Fact. The Clippers are in a good place whether or not they make this trade, whereas the Hornets are scrambling to find a new home for Chris Paul by Christmas. While the image of CP3 throwing alley-oops to Blake Griffin is pretty, it's not a necessity.
Jared Wade, 8 Points, 9 Seconds: Fact. The Clippers now have Chauncey Billups and a bright future even without the best point guard since Magic Johnson. The only downside they face is the embarrassment of becoming the team that didn't trade for Chris Paul. The thing is, reputationally, that probably would be a step forward.
2. Fact or Fiction: The league-owned Hornets are asking for too much.
J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: Fact. (A) See question No. 1, and (B) they threw salt in their own game by killing the Lakers/Rockets deal and taking them out of the mix. If they still had that offer, they could force the Clippers to top it. Poorly played.
Larry Coon, ESPN.com: Fact. Paul, great as he is, has a bum knee and can walk as a free agent in July. Even if he picks up his option for 2012-13, two seasons of CP3 are hardly worth the price Stern was asking. The Minnesota pick will likely be in the lottery in an unusually deep draft -- and can even be No. 1 overall -- while Gordon is an All-Star in the making. They got a decent deal from the Lakers. OK, they wanted younger players and picks -- I get that. But they got that in the offer they turned down from the Clips.
Mark Haubner, The Painted Area: Fact. Gordon and the Minnesota pick seems like far too much, but it ain't too much if you can get it. Even one of those assets seems like a lot to include, given that the Clippers should be holding all the cards.
Mark Shore, ClipperBlog: Fiction. The Hornets are allowed to ask for as much as they can get considering they're offering up one of the league's best talents. That being said, the Clippers can only risk so much because of Paul's recent injuries and the fact that he could opt for free agency at the end of this season or the next.
Jared Wade, 8 Points, 9 Seconds: Fact. If what we're hearing is accurate, and Stern is demanding Eric Gordon, the Wolves' pick, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu and Eric Bledsoe, then he might have lost his mind. And if he turned down a package involving Gordon and Minny's pick just because Los Angeles wouldn't include Bledsoe, then he has officially reached the Daniel Plainview-in-the-bowling-alley stage of his career.
3. Fact or Fiction: The Clippers' offer beats the Lakers' former offer.
J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: Fiction. The Lakers' offer had known entities; all the players are currently better than the Clippers' players except Eric Gordon, who is a scoring wash with Kevin Martin. The best part of the Clippers' offer would be the Minnesota pick, and we don't know who that is yet.
Larry Coon, ESPN.com: It depends on what you're looking for. If you want guys who can step in right now, then the Lakers (and Rockets) were offering three starters -- one of them the reigning sixth man -- and other assets. If you want to rebuild with younger guys, then the Clippers' offer helps you do that. Guys such as Bledsoe and Aminu are also pieces to build on.
Mark Haubner, The Painted Area: Fact. Absolutely. Earlier reports suggested the Clippers were (wisely) unwilling to include Gordon originally. If Gordon was always on the table, I don't know why the Hornets didn't take it before the Lakers' offer. If he wasn't, I don't know why L.A. would add him now.
Mark Shore, ClipperBlog: Fact. The Hornets would have netted themselves some nice pieces in the Lakers trade, but the Clippers could offer up much younger talent with a lot of upside. Plus, Minnesota's first-rounder is invaluable given the fact that it will probably be a high lottery pick in a stocked draft class.
Jared Wade, 8 Points, 9 Seconds: Fact. The Lakers/Rockets offer was a better win-now proposal, but a package with young, promising players and/or draft picks is infinitely better. Martin, Odom and Scola are fine players, but Stern has a franchise to sell. Those guys can't inspire hope in a potential buyer like youth can. He wants bidders to think they have the shot to become the next Oklahoma City.
4. Fact or Fiction: If not the Clippers, CP3 will end up with the Hornets.
J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: Fiction. The league can't let the most valuable asset on the team it owns walk away. That would be as dumb as locking out the players after a renaissance season. Oh, wait ...
Larry Coon, ESPN.com: Fiction. I don't think they let Paul finish out the season in New Orleans, even if it means moving him at the trade deadline (which they'd prefer not to do). I think they re-engage with the Lakers before they let that happen. They've already been close to a deal with two teams. If David Stern lowers his expectations a little, this deal will get done.
Mark Haubner, The Painted Area: Fact. I don't know who else out there has the combination of young assets/expiring contracts that the league is looking for, in a place CP3 is willing to commit to. Who knows, as surreal as this episode has been, maybe Besiktas Cola Turka or the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers will still get involved.
Mark Shore, ClipperBlog: Fiction. As much as the league would like to see CP3 stay in New Orleans, it's smart enough to know that he's out of there at the end of the season. Why watch him leave for nothing, like Cleveland did with LeBron James, when you can add a number of good building blocks to your team?
Jared Wade, 8 Points, 9 Seconds: Fiction. Stern may continue to play hardball now, but he knows his coveted point guard turns into a pumpkin in May. If neither the Clippers nor another suitor meet his demands before opening day, he will be forced to take the best trade-deadline offer he fields. No matter how poorly it compares to what we are reading about now.
5. Fact or Fiction: Not trading D12 is the right move for Orlando.
J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: Fact … for now. No need to rush. Play it out like Denver did with Carmelo, draw competing offers, then trade Dwight Howard. But do it by the All-Star Game, otherwise it's gonna be awkward in Orlando.
Larry Coon, ESPN.com: Fact, if he'll stay. But fiction if he intends to leave. If Dwight is giving them one last chance to put a contender around him, then this likely won't end well, and they'll be in the same position at the trade deadline -- with less flexibility for making a move. Is he really going to stay, or are they just hoping he will?
Mark Haubner, The Painted Area: Fiction. While Andrew Bynum has health risks, he also has the potential to be an elite NBA center, and those are really hard to find. I'd take the gamble on him before letting Howard walk, as I'd expect him to do.
Mark Shore, ClipperBlog: Fiction. Regardless of what he says, I think Howard is hitting the open market at the end of the season. Not only will a trade bring in some great young talent, but it will also likely allow the Magic to get Hedo Turkoglu's bad contract off their books in preparation for this summer's class of free agents.
Jared Wade, 8 Points, 9 Seconds: Fiction. A few years ago, Orlando came as close to winning a title as you can without getting jewelry. Those days now feel long gone -- and Dwight's about to be. With veterans like Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Big Baby Davis populating the roster, this franchise could be in real trouble if it doesn't get some major assets back when Howard leaves.
ESPN.com and the TrueHoop Network
J.A. Adande and Larry Coon cover the NBA for ESPN. Mark Haubner, Mark Shore and Jared Wade write for the TrueHoop Network.