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NBA teams come calling at trade deadline, but there are many hang-ups

At this rate, it may be a week mostly swapping regrets instead of coveted players.

The Lakers want to upgrade at point guard and/or small forward but are reluctant to part with Pau Gasol or a first-round draft pick.

New Orleans hopes to get something in exchange for Chris Kaman but has to get any trade past the notorious deal breaker known as David Stern.

Orlando desperately wants to avoid a repeat of the Shaquille O’Neal fiasco of 1996, when the departure of “The Diesel” left the franchise on empty, but trading Dwight Howard when there’s even a remote chance of keeping him beyond this season might be too much to bear.

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With so many hang-ups curtailing potential deals, the scenarios rumored in recent weeks easily will outnumber the deals made before the NBA’s trade deadline Thursday at noon PDT.

Milwaukee and Golden State actually consummated a trade Tuesday, the Bucks reportedly sending former No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson to the Warriors in exchange for Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh and — don’t laugh, Lakers fans — Kwame Brown.

But this could be the exception in a week when all has been quiet on the Western and Eastern fronts.

Orlando seems poised to do everything it can to not make a trade involving Howard.

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The Magic is holding out hope it can convince the six-time All-Star center to sign a long-term extension this summer, or at least exercise his option for the 2012-13 season.

In the meantime, Orlando is reportedly making a push to placate Howard by pursuing another top-level player. The Magic had hoped to swoop in and acquire Ellis before Milwaukee scuttled those plans.

The Howard hullabaloo has reached such proportions that the Orlando Sentinel instituted a “Dwight Watch” on its home page, with an automated clock ticking off every second until the trade deadline.

Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy responded Tuesday to one report that the Magic had proposed giving Howard control of the fate of team personnel by saying, “I really don’t give a damn about getting fired. … If they want to fire me to please somebody, fire me.”

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Lost amid all the chatter is the fact that Orlando has the third-best record in the Eastern Conference and could make another run at the Finals by doing absolutely nothing.

“There’s no questions about our games,” Van Gundy said to reporters before the Magic played the Miami Heat. “Nobody cares if we play well or don’t play well. … It’s all, ‘Is Dwight going to stay?’ ”

If the Magic ultimately decides Project Howard is destined to fail, its most likely trade partner remains the New Jersey Nets. Unless the Lakers decide they are willing to give up Andrew Bynum, the Nets’ package of Brook Lopez, MarShon Brooks and several first-round picks will be as good as it gets for Orlando, even with Lopez’s ankle injury expected to keep him out a few more weeks.

The Lakers could be left to shuffle the margins of their roster after quickly ending preliminary trade discussions that would have netted them Boston point guard Rajon Rondo in exchange for Gasol. Danny Ainge, the Celtics’ president of basketball operations, told reporters Monday that Rondo was staying put.

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Minnesota small forward Michael Beasley and Cleveland point guard Ramon Sessions remain in play for the Lakers, who may have to fend off the Timberwolves for Sessions after Ricky Rubio’s season-ending knee injury. The Lakers’ efforts to acquire Beasley or Sessions may also be affected by a reluctance to part with a first-round pick because this year’s crop of college players is considered unusually strong.

The Clippers are in the market for a shooting guard after watching their fortunes plummet since Chauncey Billups’ season-ending Achilles’ tendon injury. But landing a sharpshooter such as Boston’s Ray Allen or Portland’s Jamal Crawford could cost them emerging talent Eric Bledsoe plus a future first-round draft pick, giving them pause.

Other marquee players possibly on the move include Kaman and Atlanta’s Josh Smith. Each deal has its potential hang-ups.

Trading for Kaman would involve dealing with Stern, the de facto Hornets owner who infamously quashed the Chris Paul-to-the-Lakers trade.

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Smith is one of the league’s top all-around players but has another year left on his contract, making him less attractive to teams queasy about assuming long-term commitments.

Sometimes the best move is the one you don’t make.

If the Magic needs a reminder of what it could become by parting with Howard, all it must do is take a look at the mess in New Orleans.

The last-place Hornets traded Paul in December and have been masquerading as an NBA franchise ever since, mostly because the pieces they acquired in the deal haven’t added up to much. Eric Gordon has played only two games because of a foot injury, Kaman has been in and out of the lineup while the team tried to find a suitor for the big man, and the first-round pick acquired in the trade won’t arrive until June.

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Well, at least the Hornets have had reserve forward Al-Farouq Aminu. Or, as Tom Cruise’s character said in “Rain Man” upon learning he had been stiffed out of the bulk of his father’s inheritance: “Why should I be disappointed? I got rose bushes didn’t I?”

That’s the problem with trading a franchise player these days: They can turn out to be thorny propositions.

ben.bolch@latimes.com


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