|The Magic are still looking for the right Dwight Howard deal. (Getty Images)|
LAS VEGAS – Discussions among the Magic, Lakers and Cavaliers that would send Dwight Howard to Los Angeles in a three-team trade are fraught with the same complications as those that involved the Nets earlier this month.
There are two key problems that sound awfully familiar, and they involve satisfying the Magic and the third team brought in to facilitate Howard's departure from Orlando, league sources told CBSSports.com Thursday.
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While trade talks have been trudging along among the three teams, with the Lakers taking an aggressive posture in their efforts to land Howard, the discussions have yet to inspire confidence among the Magic brass that it's the best deal the team can get for Howard. A key aspect of the proposed deal would send Andrew Bynum to Cleveland, which could be equally troubling for both the Magic and the Cavs.
Orlando could've had Brook Lopez, MarShon Brooks and at least three first-round picks in a deal with the Nets that fell apart last week. Now, the Magic would be asked to trade Howard in a deal that involves Bynum without getting Bynum, who has indicated no desire to sign a long-term deal with Orlando.
Nor has Bynum signaled a willingness to give a long-term commitment to Cleveland, which obviously would be a deal-breaker for the Cavs. There was “nothing imminent” on the Howard front Thursday night, said one league source who characterized the Magic's efforts to move Howard as “more of the same.”
RealGM.com reported Thursday that Howard finally had relaxed his longstanding insistence that he would only sign long-term deal if traded to the Nets, signaling a willingness to sign with the Lakers. But this apparently significant development may not be the key to completing a Howard-to-the-Lakers trade that it would seem to be.
The Lakers, for one, never believed it would be difficult to sell Howard on staying with the organization once he got a taste of the championship culture and global marketing opportunities available in L.A. The Magic, according to sources, are taking a cautious approach to Howard's apparent change of heart – having seen first-hand how often Howard can change his mind and knowing how adamantly opposed he had been only a week ago to signing off on a trade to anywhere but Brooklyn.
In fact, there are those in Howard's camp who remain insistent on pushing the notion that Howard was coerced into waiving the early-termination clause in his contract at the March trade deadline. By doing so, Howard surrendered his right to become a free agent this summer, and with it, his strongest leverage in trying to dictate his destination in a trade.
Howard was under the impression that Magic officials had promised him that if things didn't work out in Orlando, they would trade him to the team of his choice, Brooklyn, according to a person familiar with the discussions. It was only under those circumstances that Howard agreed to change course hours before the March 15 trade deadline and waive his opt-out, the person said.
However, such an accusation blindsided the Magic, who told Howard not to sign the waiver late at night after returning from a road game in San Antonio on March 14 and instead urged him to sleep on the decision. The notion of exchanging Howard's opt-out waiver for assurances that he'd ultimately be traded to the Nets?
“No promises were made,” said a person briefed on the Magic's conversations with Howard.
As with most aspects of the Dwightmare, there are conflicting tales of how we got here. And while the teams have changed, one fundamental fact hasn't: The Magic don't think they've gotten their best offer yet for Howard, because if they had, they would've traded him by now.