A Dwight Howard trade is happening. Sorry to say it to those who have hopes of a reconciliation. It just does not seem like it will happen at this point.
I have already looked into some of the trades that may happen and what the Magic are looking for in a deal — namely young players, draft picks and cap flexilbility — but there is a second side to the equation. The players the Magic would acquire.
Dwight Howard has made it pretty clear that he wants to be a Brooklyn Net. Even though Howard has not said this himself, Magic general manager Rob Hennigan said the Nets are the team Howard specifcally wanted to land. That does not appear to be where he ends up.
While the Magic are reportedly still negotiating a deal with the Nets, there is an important piece of the puzzle that is largely forgotten. An important step, critical to any deal, is what the other side is going to give you. And considering the Nets already gave up many of their assets to acquire Joe Johnson and his massive contract, Brooklyn does not have a lot to give.
The best thing the Nets can give is a sign and trade involving Book Lopez and Kris Humphries (both free agents).
No doubt, Lopez has long been linked to the Magic in the Dwight Howard trade simply because he would provide Orlando with a center to “replace” Howard. Even though he is a restricted free agent, he remains a rumored centerpiece to a potential Dwight Howard deal.
There is one problem: nobody ever checked in with Lopez about whether he would be interested in signing with Orlando.
Fred Kerber of the New York Post asked the question earlier this week, and as I mentioned, the answer appeared to be a pretty solid no. Lopez wants to play with the Nets and be part of Brooklyn’s suddenly bright future.
Nets center Brook Lopez loves Disney World. But he does not want to play in Orlando.
“He really wants to see it through with the Nets and go to Brooklyn,” Chris Lopez, the center’s brother and advisor, told The Post [on Tuesday, July 3]. “We’re back in California and he understands the situation, but he wants to remain consistent: He wants to be a Brooklyn Net. He hasn’t played anywhere else and he likes the organization. He wants to be a part of it now that they’re going to be good.”
This point is actually pretty important too. There are several rules the Nets and the Magic have to follow if they ever come to an agreement in a Howard-Lopez framework.
The simplest thing that could happen is the Magic agreeing to terms with Lopez and executing a sign-and-trade. This would require Lopez agreeing to a deal with the Magic and the Magic agreeing to commit long term to Lopez. No one is quite sure what the market is for Lopez quite yet. There are very few rumors about where Lopez could end up and how much he might draw.
The reason for this is pretty simple. Nobody is sure whether the Nets will match any deal they sign Lopez to because of the uncertainty of the Dwight situation.
This is likely why the Nets are reportedly ready to move on. That is what Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated suggested in a report from this weekend. Brooklyn seems to be losing patience in waiting on Orlando and could be deciding to wait until December 15.
December 15 is a very important date. This is the date that newly acquired players can be traded for the first time. So if the Nets want to acquire any new players, they are not available for trade. This is also when Lopez would become available to be traded if the Nets match his contract.
The Nets still hold the right to match any offer Lopez signs. And, whether they get Dwight Howard or not, Lopez is a valuable asset as one of the few true, valuable centers left in the league.
But Lopez, as a restricted free agent, holds certain rights when the Nets match his contract. The most important is that he has the right to veto any trade for the first season of his contract. And the Nets would not be able to trade him to whatever team signed him to the offer sheet.
This potentially could hamper any trade between the Magic and the Nets. Lopez IS a free agent. He gets to decide where he will play (within the limits of his restricted free agency).
So as much as the Magic want to make a deal for Dwight Howard and the Nets want to make a deal for Dwight Howard, it takes the right deal to make it happen. Lopez is a big part of that deal (and Humphries is also a resticted free agent for the Magic and Nets to deal with — and the latest rumor from Amick has the Magic showing no interest in acquiring Humphries in a sign and trade).
Just like the the deal between the Magic and the Lakers, it takes both parties finding the right deal to make it finally happen. One team’s resolve is not going to be enought to get the deal done.
This is where Rob Hennigan’s patience is going to be critical. He has to wait for the right deal to come along — one that both sides can agree to.