With all due respect to Magic Johnson, it has always been about the man in the middle for the Lakers, from Mikan to Chamberlain to Abdul-Jabbar to Shaq to ... Howard.

Unlike with Chris Paul, the Lakers have a ready-to-go replacement part in the middle for the Magic in Andrew Bynum, who, once you get down to it, could emerge as the best center in the East.

By contrast, it's not as if the Lakers are in any position to forward a replacement point guard to the Hornets without some complicated multi-team dealing.

Orlando, of course, is growing tired of being bullied by the Lakers. But unlike when Shaq was lost, at least this time there will be a replacement part.


Lakers, Magic need to talk

Mike Bresnahan

Los Angeles Times

Howard and Paul can become free agents by opting out of their contracts next July, putting pressure on Orlando and New Orleans to get something in return before the perennial All-Stars walk away for nothing. Orlando isn't as desperate to unload Howard and would ask for quite the return in a trade with the Lakers, wanting Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant, according to a person familiar with Orlando's thinking who was not authorized to speak. He appeared to be joking. Maybe.

Bynum and Lamar Odom could provide fairly quick salary-cap relief for a willing team.

For starters, the Lakers and Magic need to be talking about it to make a Howard deal happen.