The Orlando Magic have intensified discussions about trading Dwight Howard, and the Brooklyn Nets are rapidly overtaking the Los Angeles Lakers as the strongest contender to land the disenchanted All-Star center, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
Despite Orlando’s desire to make Lakers center Andrew Bynum the centerpiece of a trade package, a significant stumbling block remains in Bynum’s reluctance to commit to a long-term contract if he’s traded to the Magic, sources said. Orlando doesn’t want to face the possibility of trading for Bynum only to lose him to free agency after the upcoming season.
The appeal of the Lakers’ potential package for Bynum has also been diminished with Los Angeles sending its 2013 and 2015 first-round draft picks to the Phoenix Suns in the Steve Nash sign-and-trade deal. The NBA doesn’t allow teams to trade first-round picks in consecutive years, so the Lakers can’t offer Orlando their 2014 and 2016 first-round picks.
The Magic are portraying patience in making a deal for Howard, but have a strong distaste for engaging in a prolonged process that drags into the summer. From new general manager Rob Hennigan through Orlando ownership, the Magic want to find the best possible deal for Howard soon and cut ties with him, sources said.
As Orlando sorts through the offers, Howard’s potential destination is increasingly looking like the Nets, sources said.
Bynum, 24, has one year left on his Lakers contract and has a short list of potential teams with salary-cap space and supporting cast that primarily include the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets with the Cleveland Cavaliers and a “couple others” on the list, league sources said. If Bynum remains with the Lakers past the Howard derby, he’ll have strong incentive to accept a maximum contract extension to stay in L.A., sources said. Otherwise, he has expressed a desire to test the free-agent market.
As much as Orlando would prefer to send Howard to a Western Conference team, the Magic keep coming back to the Nets as the best, safest package. Howard’s preferred trade partner – Brooklyn – has pushed into overdrive in offering up trade scenarios and options for the Magic, sources said. For now, Orlando prefers Nets restricted free-agent center Brook Lopez as a centerpiece player over having its pick of the Houston Rockets’ roster, sources said.