Howard clearing way for LA trade

Reuters Pictures/DayLifeOrlando’s long-running search to trade Dwight Howard may finally have received some good news. After the Magic were generally unsatisfied with the package the Nets, Dwight Howard’s preferred landing spot, put together and after the Nets decided to move on, Dwight Howard may have finally enabled the Magic to increase their trade leverage.

Jarrod Rudolph of RealGM reports Howard is ready to commit to signing a long-term extension after the 2012-13 season with the Lakers if he is traded there.

It has long been speculated that the Lakers, despite a heavy interest in acquiring Howard, were hesitant to commit all the resources they could to a deal because of fears Howard would leave them. Los Angeles is not interested in a rental in other words.

It was also widely reported earlier in the year that Howard had little interest in joining the Lakers. The speculation was that Howard was reluctant to follow in Shaquille O’Neal’s footsteps in going from Orlando to Los Angeles and that Howard was upset with the role Kobe Bryant envisioned for him on the team. Those concerns appear to be alleviated now that Howard’s first choice, Brooklyn, no longer appears to be an option. The Nets capped themselves out by acquiring Joe Johnson and re-signing Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez to long-term deals.

At some point, it seemed, Howard’s camp had to back off its insistence that Brooklyn was THE place for the superstar center. Especially considering the fact it has become clearer and clearer that Howard wants out of Orlando more than anything else.

Rudolph, citing sources, reports that Howard has always liked the Lakers winning tradition and has been “intrigued” with the off-court opportunities Los Angeles could offer. It appears other things were keeping him from having the Lakers high on his list — O’Neal’s shadow and Kobe Bryant’s domineering personality may have been those reasons.

Howard though appears to have backed off those doubts now that he has been backed into a corner and has to consider his future without Brooklyn in the picture.

Howard has gotten a taste of the Los Angeles lifestyle. He has been in Los Angeles rehabbing his back since undergoing surgery in Los Angeles in April.

AP Photo/DayLifeOf course, Howard’s commitment to signing a long-term deal with the Lakers does not complete a trade. Magic general manager Rob Hennigan has repeatedly said the Magic will do what is best for the franchise. This is why Orlando did not rush into a trade with Brooklyn when the team did not like what Brooklyn was offering.

The Magic clearly want young players and draft picks in return for Howard so that they may re-shuffle the decks. Andrew Bynum seemed like the perfect acquisition for Howard, but Bynum will also be a free agent next summer and it does not appear Bynum wants to stay long-term in Orlando (although he has not commented much publicly on his future and he seems willing to give Orlando a chance if traded there).

It is also unclear whether the Magic are interested in Andrew Bynum at all. Many assume Orlando does not want to deal with the questions about a player signing an extension all over again and acquiring Bynum may be doing that.

So if Bynum is not the answer and the Lakers do not have the young players and draft picks the Magic want, this deal will require a third team.

Rudolph reported the Cavaliers may be involved in the trade, possibly offering up former Magic second-round pick Anderson Varejao and other draft picks into the pot to acquire Bynum, who reportedly would sign on long-term in Cleveland. Several other outlets are also reporting the Cavaliers would get involved in a three-team deal, although it is unclear if Varejao would be included.

Cleveland might be a more palatable trade partner for Orlando. Varejao has two years left on his contract (and a team option on a third) at about $9 million per year. Luke Walton is an expiring contract and young swing man Alonzo Gee is a restricted free agent. He might be acquired in a sign and trade. Sharp shooting forward Omri Casspi also is in the last year of his deal before becoming a free agent after next season.

Cleveland has young players and assets to trade to Orlando. The Cavaliers also have very little committed beyond this season and so might be able to take on some of the Magic’s heftier salaries. Cleveland also has its 2013 first round pick to offer. The Cavaliers also have the Heat’s pick and the King’s pick in the 2013 draft to offer (with protections).

The Cavaliers may not be able to offer as much as the Rockets could in that one reported deal, but they could be the third team that facilitates things.

It is yet to be seen what Rob Hennigan will do. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel suspects Orlando will see what Houston does with Omer Asik and re-engage Houston in trade talks possibly involving the Lakers, possibly not.

Nobody knows what will happen. But at this point, it is clear a major hurdle has been cleared with Howard. He is considering his future without Brooklyn. This will allow the Magic to exercise more leverage and make a palatable trade happen sooner.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily

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