Seven months ago, Dwight Howard and his agent told the Orlando Magic that Howard wanted a trade, preferably to the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets.
The Magic now face a similar request, but there is one critical difference between the situations. This time, it appears that the entire Magic hierarchy is prepared to trade the superstar center.
After a face-to-face meeting Friday between Howard and new general manager Rob Hennigan in southern California, the Magic have spoken to the Houston Rockets, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Nets about a possible trade involving Howard, Yahoo! Sports reported.
Hennigan and Magic CEO Alex Martins did not return messages for comment. And neither did Howard's agent, Dan Fegan.
The situation could grow ugly.
According to ESPN, either Howard or a member of his inner circle recently approached the National Basketball Players Association to see if he had a legal complaint against the Magic. Howard reportedly has told people that team officials "blackmailed" him into agreeing to waive the early-termination option in his contract that would have allowed him to become a free agent this summer.
On March 14, during a conference call with Howard and his agent, Magic owner Rich DeVos told Howard the franchise would trade him before the NBA trade deadline the following day if Howard didn't waive the early-termination option in his contract.
In the early morning hours of March 15, after the team arrived in Orlando after a road game in San Antonio, Howard wanted to sign a document that would have waived the clause. But Otis Smith, Orlando's general manager at the time, met Howard at Orlando International Airport and told Howard he should sleep on his decision.
Martins spent much of last season trying to convince Howard to remain with the team. Smith, on the other hand, wanted to trade Howard in December.
But Martins has maintained in recent weeks that the team is prepared to trade Howard if Howard will not sign a long-term extension.
Magic spokesman Joel Glass confirmed that a meeting between Howard and Hennigan took place Friday, but Glass would not disclose the details.
Hennigan, who was hired June 20, has insisted he is operating under no restrictions.
"The DeVos family has told me that we need to do whatever we feel is in the best interests of the organization, and that's the truth," Hennigan said before he left for California.
Most NBA observers and the Magic don't believe the Nets have enough assets to offer in a trade.
But the Magic are under no obligation to trade Howard to the Nets, anyway.
Indeed, the Magic almost certainly would trade Howard to the team that makes the best offer — an offer that, ideally, would include talented, young players and multiple draft picks and enable Orlando to rebuild its roster.
What complicates the situation is that Howard is indicating that he will not agree to an extension with any team other than the Nets.
And that, in turn, reduces the number of teams that would be willing to trade for Howard. Most teams simply aren't willing to relinquish good players for someone — even a superstar — who will sign elsewhere at the end of the season.
"It sure is tough to give up the necessary assets to get him without any assurance that he'll re-sign," said former Phoenix Suns general manager and current TNT basketball analyst Steve Kerr.
"On top of that, [with] the track record of what Dwight has done the last year, it's like he's confused along with the rest of the basketball world. So I don't know how you could possibly trust him to make a decision on anything as far as your organization is concerned."
The Rockets are willing to acquire Howard without any assurance he'll remain after the 2012-13 season. Houston could offer 26-year-old point guard Kyle Lowry and/or 29-year-old swingman Kevin Martin, plus some of the draft picks it selected in last Thursday's draft.
The Lakers could offer 24-year-old Andrew Bynum, who is arguably the second-best center in the NBA.
Under NBA rules, teams cannot finalize trades or free-agent signings until July 11.
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