As soon as the Brooklyn Nets’ proposed three-team deal for Dwight Howard fell apart, everyone knew it was only a matter of time before the Los Angeles Lakers forced their way back into the conversation.

Really, it was mind-boggling that Orlando Magic management would even consider that awful transaction in the first place when they could trade their disgruntled big man to a whole different conference and get better pieces back. But I digress.

Surely enough, about an hour or so after the widely-reported Booklyn-Orlando-Cleveland Cavaliers trade was officially deemed dead on Tuesday, reports began to surface that the Lakers, Magic and Houston Rockets were involved in trade talks actually made some sort of sense. Via Eric Pincus of HoopsWorld:

HOOPSWORLD has learned that there have been preliminary discussions between the Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets that would involve sending Andrew Bynum to the Rockets, Howard to the Lakers and a number of first-round picks, prospects and significant cap relief to the Magic.

The benefits of this trade for all involved are obvious.

Orlando management, who is wary of bringing in Bynum because they’re afraid he’ll leave them a la Dwight in a year, would get the security and comfort that comes with picks and cap relief.

Houston management, who has long desired to bring in a quality big man, would get Bynum (who reportedly wouldn’t be averse to signing an extension with them).

And L.A. management, who is confident that they could get Dwight to re-up despite his hesitation right now, would get a legitimate, real superstar who could give Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash their best possible shot at winning a championship next year.

Win-win-win. In theory.

The one lingering question when folks read over that proposal, however, was why the Rockets would go for Bynum. Sure, it sort of makes sense if he publicly agreed to sign an extension with Houston upon arrival – but he won’t do that. No matter whether he stays with the Lakers or goes elsewhere, he’s going wait until he can maximize his money before inking any sort of deal. So, really, the Rockets would face the same sort of uncertainty bringing in Bynum that they would face if they just rolled the dice on Howard himself.

Which brings us to this report from ESPN’s Marc Stein (bold is mine, not his):

Sources told that the Rockets are discussing a multitude of trade scenarios with the Magic, offering to serve both as the team that would acquire Howard in a direct trade between the clubs and also as a third team that would participate in a trade that lands Howard with the Lakers and brings All-Star center Andrew Bynum to Houston.

The fact of the matter is, if the Rockets are going to gamble on a rental – it makes far more sense to do so on Howard than on Bynum. This was true from the very beginning, and it remains just as true now.

Barring an agreement from Bynum to re-up immediately (which won’t happen), it just doesn’t make sense for Houston to help create a monster in L.A. -- all the while taking a huge gamble on an injury-prone, relatively unproven big man coming off his first All-Star starting gig -- when they could just do a direct trade with Orlando.

The Lakers need Houston in this deal; Houston doesn't need the Lakers.

This is a very fluid situation. Stay tuned.

Get more Lakers news and rumors on Twitter: @agroberman

(ESPN, HoopsWorld)

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