Of the teams [Dwight] Howard is likely to consider when exercising his early-termination option after next season — sources say the Lakers, Knicks and Nets are the strong favorites — L.A. is the one with the most attractive trade assets. The massive contracts attached to the Lakers’ most desirable players also puts them in the rare position of being able to absorb either [Gilbert] Arenas or [Hedo] Turkoglu as a way to soften the blow for Orlando. […]
The clincher, under current CBA rules that would govern any trades conducted before the deal expires July 1, would be assembling salaries in a way that would allow Orlando to get out from under their massive and ill-advised obligations to Turkloglu and/or Arenas. In all likelihood, the Lakers are the only team with the salaries and commensurate talent to pull it off.
If you’re the Magic, staring at an uncertain future with limited flexibility to build around Howard, you would feel pretty good about getting one of the world’s most skilled power forwards (Gasol), the only center in the league with the potential to rival Howard (Bynum, with an asterisk due to his history of knee injuries), or the league’s best sixth man (Odom, who has the ability to be so much more as a starter). Any one of them would be a better asset than Cleveland (James), Toronto (Chris Bosh), Denver (Carmelo Anthony), or Utah (Deron Williams) got for its departing superstar. Two of them would be a haul of talent that Magic GM Otis Smith simply wouldn’t be able to turn down.
But wait, there’s more.
I hear all kinds of mixed messages on Howard. One person told me Howard wants to be a Laker. Someone else said he wants Chris Paul to join him in Orlando. Another said his top priority is to sign a maximum contract, which would make a trade (either in-season or a summer 2012 sign-and-trade) the only way for him to land in Los Angeles.
Two plugged-in national reporters. And the words that stands out from their reports are ‘Howard’ and ‘Lakers’ — in the same sentence.
For Magic fans that don’t remember what it was like during the offseason in 1996 when Shaquille O’Neal signed with the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent, get used to the chatter because it’s not going away any time soon. For Magic fans that do remember, it’s like reliving a nightmare that never ends.
After the Lakers crashed and burned against the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Western Conference Semifinals, in conjunction with the Orlando Magic’s premature exit in the first round of the playoffs at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks, it’s as if the Howard-to-Los Angeles narrative accelerated tenfold.
Right now, the record states that the Magic are a team that’s going nowhere with an MVP-caliber player that can exercise his early-termination option in 2012 while the Lakers, with head coach Phil Jackson’s departure, are in need of a face lift after getting swept by the Mavericks. Enter Howard, speculated by many to be the answer to Los Angeles’ woes.
But let’s take a step back. Until Howard figures out his intentions, one way or the other, the only things that writers and reporters are dealing with is mostly speculation and hearsay. It’s going to take time for the endgame to occur.
That being said, this is only the beginning.
Howard’s future will dominate the headlines in Orlando for the foreseeable future.