The NBA lockout is over, opening the league for business (soon). With free agency slated to begin on December 9 and the regular season on December 25, that means that trade movement will be compressed, the volume will be turned up and everything will sound like twee.
Except in New Orleans and Orlando, of course, where the two biggest subjects of trade rumors currently play.
Chris Sheridan has reported that the NBA dropped the so-called Carmelo Anthony Rule from its lockout deal push. The rule would have restricted teams from trading for players in the last year of their contracts before free agency and maintaining the players Larry Bird rights. Bird rights allow a team over the salary cap to sign their own free agents to new contracts or extensions.
If the Melo Rule had been implemented, it's less likely that trades for either Howard or Paul -- both scheduled to be free agents in 2012 -- would have been executed. The Magic and Hornets, respectively, would have had trouble finding deals that made the loss of legit MVP contenders agreeable without the ability of teams on the receiving end being assured they could fit the stars under the cap.
But with the death of the Melo Rule (rest in peace), those trades are back on the table. The New York Knicks are said to be heavily interested in both, but with Paul seeming more suitable. Howard's been a target of lust for Los Angeles Lakers' fans, who no doubt see the similarities in the poaching of Shaquille O'Neal in the mid-1990s. The difference between Paul and Howard is that not once has CP3 given an indication that he's ready to leave the Hornets. Howard has not masked his desire to get into a bigger market, much like 'Melo a year ago.
In normal offseasons, we'd bristle at the thought of paying much mind to rumors involved CP3 and Howard, in part out of respect to the fans of New Orleans and Orlando. The lockout has changed the calculus a bit; we are so starved of basketball that any tidbit to debate or consider is like catnip. For that, we apologize.