Blakely: Paul to L.A. a big blow to Celtics now and later

Blakely: Paul to L.A. a big blow to Celtics now and later
December 9, 2011, 1:57 am
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WALTHAM Losing out in the Chris Paul sweepstakes certainly hurt the Boston Celtics.

Having the winner be the Los Angeles Lakers?

Like a swift kick to the it hurts, a lot.

As part of a three-team blockbuster deal involving New Orleans, the Lakers and the Houston Rockets on Thursday, Paul winds up in La-La Land while the Hornets receive Lakers forward Lamar Kardashian, oops, I mean Odom; along with Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and a protected first-round pick from the Rockets. For their part in the deal, Houston will receive Lakers forward Pau Gasol.

Making matters worse for Boston, the Celtics had every reason to believe that Paul was going to be donning the Green and White soon, even going so far as to start making plans for a physical.

But two league sources said the Hornets made one more round of calls to teams on Thursday, letting them know that they were on the verge of pulling the trigger on a deal. While they didn't explicitly say the team they were going to strike a deal with was the Celtics, all indications were that Boston had emerged as the team to beat once Golden State and the Los Angeles Clippers refused to include Stephen Curry and Eric Gordon, respectively, in a trade.

Aware that the Hornets were looking to deal soon, a handful of teams which included the Lakers, stepped their efforts up to land the four-time all-star.

Once the Rockets said they were on board, it was just a matter of time before Paul was on his way to becoming a Laker.

And the Lakers may not be done, either.

Because they did not have to include Andrew Bynum in Thursday's blockbuster trade, the Lakers immediately become one of the favorites to land Orlando's Dwight Howard via trade this season.

For the Orlando Magic to trade Howard, they would want a number of things for him, including a young, talented big man.

Bynum, 24, would qualify.

Los Angeles' gains put the Celtics' plans of remaining among the NBA's elite beyond the current Big 3, in serious jeopardy.

The thinking for the C's in trying to acquire Paul was that his presence along with a strong season, would be enough to convince Howard to sign with the Celtics this summer when he becomes a free agent.

But with Paul joining the Lakers, one of just a handful of teams Howard would want to play for, Boston's rebuilding plans have hit a major snag.

Not only does Paul's decision impact the C's this season, but the domino effect is sure to be felt this summer when the Celtics will be flush with cash to spend on free agents, but none, with the exception of New Jersey's Deron Williams, being in the same class as Paul and Howard.

And so the search to extend the Big 3's window, or create a new one, will continue.

But the C's have more pressing matters than that; namely, mending the damaged relationship that now exists between Rajon Rondo - the primary chip the Celtics dangled out there for the Hornets to bite on - and the franchise.

Everyone remembers how hard he took the team's trading away of good friend Kendrick Perkins in February to Oklahoma City.

Conventional wisdom says he'll sulk and become more distant from his teammates - two things that became all too common following the Perkins trade.

But remember this.

There was a time when Paul Pierce's maturity was in question here in Boston.

And while he certainly didn't enjoy seeing his name tossed about in potential trades, it seems to have helped Pierce in terms of his growth and maturity into being a leader, the face of this franchise.

Rondo has that opportunity now.

There's one thing Rondo has been consistent with, and that's doing the unexpected.

So for him to put this behind him quickly, focus on the season ahead and not allow it to be a distraction or a deterrent to his play, would catch many by surprise and just as important, show the kind of growth that a leader-in-training should have.

That doesn't mean he won't be the subject of trade rumors again.

But to use it as motivation to play better, for his naysayers it would be like a swift kick in the it would hurt, a lot.