Reports: Lakers pull out of trade for Chris Paul, will trade Lamar Odom to Dallas, Dwight Howard move next?

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And the strange, strange saga rolls on.

After nearly a week of negotiations and one failed attempt by the Los Angeles Lakers to trade for Chris Paul in a three-way deal with the Houston Rockets which was blocked by the league, ESPN reports that the Lakers “have pulled out” of the Paul trade. The deal has “fallen apart” according to Yahoo! Sports. But what may be of even more interest is what comes next.

ESPN’s Marc Stein also reports that the Lakers will trade Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks for the trade exception they obtained in a sign and trade with New York for Tyson Chandler. Getting past the general insanity of the past two paragraphs is this: the Lakers are now in prime position to trade for Dwight Howard and take on Hedo Turkoglu’s massive contract, a sticking point for any trade for Orlando.

Kaboom.

So the big loser in the short term is Paul, though it’s entirely likely that the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Clippers, or Golden State Warriors will come through with a significant offer for Paul to move him from New Orleans in the coming days. Meanwhile, Lamar Odom is on his way to the reigning NBA champions who feature an All-Star, Hall-of-Fame, Finals MVP player at his natural position. The Mavericks are going to have an entirely bizarre lineup this year, but they’re also going to have a tremendous amount of depth, even if they have no center.

To review: Mark Cuban blocks a trade for the Lakers to get Chris Paul, then inserts his team into conversations and winds up with Lamar Odom, using the trade exception he gained from letting his center go, which will allow the Lakers to pursue the best center in the league.

Sure, why not? At this point you could tell me the Lakers are trading for Marvin the Martian with Fruity Pebbles and two Laker Girls and I’d believe you. The strangest year in the NBA rolls on.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.