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Lakers "Pulled Out"; Rockets Left Wondering What If

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The final domino finally fell. The Lakers, fed up with the NBA's demands which they couldn't meet, pulled out of the deal and will instead trade Lamar Odom to the Mavericks. With that, the Rockets pursuit of Pau Gasol appears to be dead. Again.

ESPN's Marc Stein was the first to report it, and he bluntly said:

Sources say Lakers have pulled out [of] three-team trade for Chris Paul.

This emotional roller coaster for fans, players, and executives culminated in nothing, no star for Houston, no twin towers in the middle, just a heap of mediocrity and a leading scorer alienated by his front office.

When a Rockets executive said on Thursday night that the veto of this deal set the Rockets back three years, he was not exaggerating. After it became abundantly clear that the Yao-McGrady era was not going to bear fruit, everything the Rockets did was building to this day. And the Rockets nearly rebuilt their squad to a contender in the Western Conference in spite of overwhelming adversity, only to reach this day where a heavy-handed Commissioner killed all chances.

Stern's arrogance to think that the Lakers and Rockets would just take this deal because they needed it so badly is painfully similar to this same arrogance we all saw when he made ultimatum after ultimatum during the lockout. Just like it did months ago, his arrogance blew up in his face.

By trying to screw over the Lakers and keep them from creating a "super team," he may have helped them find their next young star. With the conclusion of tonight's talks, the Lakers are reportedly focusing their efforts on acquiring Dwight Howard, the most attractive trade target in the NBA. Instead of landing Paul and patching together a front court, the Lakers can now maintain a balanced roster and land the best center in the world. Sure, Derek Fisher isn't the greatest point guard, but I could start for them and they could still win some games.

For the Rockets, now what? They have a brooding shooting guard in Kevin Martin who may not be happy staying in town, a roster full of good role players and no stars, and a decent amount of cap room. Do they go the Dalembert route and give him his 2 years and $18 million, or do they say to hell with it and blow it up?

Or, do they take a gamble and get in on the Chris Paul trade discussions and try to bring the star point guard to Houston? With Los Angeles and New York both positioning themselves to go after other players, two of Paul's preferred destinations are now impossible to go to next summer in free agency. Could the elimination of these two suitors bring the Rockets back into the extension conversation? Perhaps not, but it's definitely an avenue worth exploring.

No matter what happens, the Rockets chances at great things this season and the next took a huge hit tonight. So please David, just go retire or something.