After months of speculation surrounding the future home of Magic superstar center Dwight Howard — most of it surrounding the Nets — the Magic appear to have dealt Howard to the Lakers, according to a source.
The source said it “looks like” a four-team trade will be completed, sending Howard to the Lakers and ending what has been an eight-month saga surrounding Howard, the league’s dominant big man.
For much of those eight months, the focus of any Howard talks involved him coming to the Nets, whom Howard requested a trade to after the NBA lockout was resolved last winter.
But Howard now appears to be headed to the Lakers in a complicated, four-team deal involving the Magic, Lakers, 76ers and Nuggets, which was first reported by Yahoo! Sports yesterday.
In the deal, the Lakers will receive Howard, the Nuggets will acquire 76ers All-Star Andre Iguodala and the 76ers will receive Lakers All-Star center Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson from the Magic. Orlando will receive guard Arron Afflalo and forward Al Harrington from the Nuggets, second-year center Nikola Vucevic and small forward and former St. John’s star Moe Harkless from the 76ers, along with a protected lottery pick from each team, according to ESPN.com, which reported the deal was done. However, with this many teams involved, there remains a chance that some pieces will change before the deal is completed.
If the deal is completed as constituted, it would push the Lakers past the Heat as the favorites to win the NBA title next season, with a foursome of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Howard that can match up with any team in the league.
Howard heading to the Lakers also would all but end any chances the Nets would have of acquiring Howard because they will be far over the salary cap when he becomes a free agent next summer. Because of the restrictions on teams over the luxury tax in the new CBA, the Nets will be unable to acquire Howard in a sign-and-trade after next season if he wants to leave the Lakers as a free agentAnd it is extremely unlikely the Lakers, who expect to be able to re-sign Howard, will trade him anywhere during the season.
The Nets have been at the center of the Howard saga ever since the superstar center requested a trade to the Nets last December after the NBA lockout ended. At various points, it seemed like the Nets would be able to acquire Howard, only to see trade talks fall apart.
Then, when it looked like the Nets would be able to sign Howard as a free agent this summer, he inexplicably opted-in to the final year of his contract the night before the March 15 trade deadline, removing his leverage in trade talks and removing the Nets’ ability to sign him as a free agent.
It again looked like the Nets might end up with Howard last month when free agency began and discussions with the Magic started up again. But after extended talks with the Magic talks broke down, the Nets quickly moved to re-sign restricted free-agent center Brook Lopez to a four-year, maximum salary contract.
After re-signing Lopez, the Nets were unable to re-enter the Howard sweepstakes until January 15, when Lopez would be eligible to be traded again. But now it looks like they won’t get a chance to give it another shotHoward has been in Los Angeles since having back surgery in April to repair a herniated disk. In his only public comments since the season ended in an interview with Yahoo! Sports on July 2, Howard wouldn’t speculate about whether he’d be ready for the start of the regular season.