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Ball Don't Lie

Lamar Odom to New York? Dwight Howard on the move? For now, it’s all talk

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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LAMAR ODOM AND DWIGHT HOWARD DISCUSS OPTIONS. OPTIONS! (Getty Images)

Lamar Odom, master of his destiny and not at all a creature of habit and/or willing participant in whatever the heck Khloe Kardashian/E! Network/Ryan Seacrest Productions tell him to do, might want to play for the New York Knicks in 2012-13 and beyond.

Dwight Howard, ruler of worlds, might be as good as gone from Orlando this summer, because the Magic's ownership group appears to have soured on dealing with the guy.

Both rumors make plenty of sense, in basketball terms and in consideration of the respective players' personality, and history. Odom is from New York, cannot stand playing outside of major markets, and is ultra-sensitive who he runs with and under what circumstances. Howard, a year and a half removed from beginning to turn down contract extensions from the Orlando Magic, should have worn out his welcome with the team by now, and it makes sense for Orlando to have decided to move on. But, even in late May and just five weeks removed from the official start of the offseason, is any of this worth leaning on? Come on, guy.

Odom's plea is by far the less significant of the two. The New York City native has played with both Los Angeles teams since entering the NBA in 1999, along with a season in Miami, and a disastrous stint with the Dallas Mavericks — the defending champion, always on TV, very famous Dallas Mavericks — in 2011-12. With his options limited and very few teams interested in a 32-year-old who shot 35 percent last year and couldn't be bothered to make it a full year with the Mavs despite plenty of chances, of course the offensively starved Knicks seem like a perfect retreat for a player looking to turn it all around.

There's just one obstacle, though. Actual NBA contracts, including the one Odom signed back in the summer of 2009.

Lamar may have been dismissed from the Mavericks two months ago, but he's still under contract with the team for the rest of this season, and technically for 2012-13. Though the $8.5 million he's due to make in 2012-13 is only guaranteed for $2.4 million, and the Mavericks will certainly decline to pick up Odom's team option for the full amount for myriad reasons that go beyond his play in 2011-12, he still is a Maverick until July.

And between now and July, the Mavs are shopping the veteran. Which means LO is in no way in control of his destiny, here. Even if "New York is somewhere he can be comfortable."

The Mavericks took what seemed to be a low-risk chance on Lamar in December because his all-around talents would have seemingly fit in swimmingly with a veteran Mavs team already featuring borderline position-less veterans like Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion. Sadly for us lovers of all things orange and leathery, it didn't work out. Dallas' commitment goes beyond that, though, because all along the team has been clearing cap space for the 2013 offseason, one that could see the team attempt to pounce on trading for Howard, or adding Deron Williams in the free-agent market.

This is why the team is going to be proactive with Odom, in the days leading up to the June 29 deadline to either pick up Odom's full deal for 2012-13, or buy him out at the cost of that $2.4 million. If Williams continues to hint that he doesn't want any part of the borderline-rebuilding Mavericks, the team could ship him to another team desperate to cut salary, knowing they can send out around $9 million in contracts and only end up paying $2.4 million (once they decline Odom's option) in return. Toss in the ability to pick up draft picks or add to that cap space by including Marion or Brendan Haywood in any deal, and you can see why the Mavericks are more than in charge, in this situation.

And Odom, despite his representative-placed plea ("It definitely won't be the fiasco that it was last year. He's won championships in the past and he wants to win another." — mine eyes hurt from all the rollin') isn't really in charge of any of this, anytime soon. And even if he hits the open market, he'll have to take on a minimum salary from the Knicks, and not even a part of the team's mid-level exception — because the Knicks will likely be looking for more shooters and guard help, instead of a player whose skill set is already pretty well represented on the Knicks. Again, Lamar's not really in charge here.

To a lesser extent, the same goes for both the Orlando Magic and Dwight Howard, somehow concurrently, in their dilemma.

It more than makes sense, as you read Chris Sheridan's report, to believe that the Magic are sick to death of Howard's hemming and hawing. We were begging the team last year to pull the trigger with the MVP candidate, because it was more than obvious ages ago that he was in no hurry to re-sign with the only team's he's been a part of since being drafted first overall in 2004. And even if the Magic secure a fantastic win-now coach between now and training camp — say, a Stan Van Gundy-type — the team's limited roster only gives them an upset's worth of a chance to knock out a Miami or Chicago in the playoffs this time next year in the final weeks of Howard's contract.

So, you trade the guy. Right?

Of course, but we're not there yet. Sources around the Magic (who would also have great interest in trying to sway Howard by leaking fake trade rumors) might claim to have made their minds up, but they're ages away from figuring any of this out. Without a working general manager — no, CEO Alex Martins is not a basketball guy — the team has little indication as to how the market is set, and will be set. And as stupid as the team was to drag this saga out while hanging onto the mercurial Howard, they'd be stupid to make up their minds before the offseason hits.

Because things could change. Even if we've decided, without reflex, that Howard won't be back after the summer of 2013, making a final decision before prodding is the height of absurdity.

What if the team's finances are better served to keep Howard around (after all, he was the guy that famously put pen to paper in March to pick up his player option for 2012-13) and fill the seats in that stadium through at least the first round of next year's playoffs, considering how un-movable his teammates are in the trade market?

What if the trade market for Howard, because teams know he's on the block this summer, could be more rewarding next February, in the days leading up to the trade deadline?

What if going quiet with this, as the Utah Jazz did in dealing Deron Williams 15 months ago, is the way to go?

What if, as it is with Odom, teams are waiting to see how the May 30 draft lottery shakes out? Or the actual draft, on June 28? What if they're waiting on getting a better idea of where the NBA's cap limit will settle into, even if news of that hits after Odom's June 29 deadline?

What if this is all nonsense, until things shape out?

Aye, you're on to something there.

The conference finals start this weekend. The season still has a few weeks to go, and we're five weeks away from anything substantial happening in the 2012 offseason. Teams and players have an idea of what they'd like to do between now and the start of training camp this fall, but beyond that nobody has a clue. And that goes for even your most plugged-in player representative, front office source, and the writers that happily represent their side of the story in order to reel in hits.

Apologies for the cold water take, but you're as plugged in as anyone. It's early. There's still a lot to figure out, and nothing is as simple as it seems save for the simple way of saying that we've still got a long way to go before anything settles into anything resembling reality. Much less a roster.

Enjoy your hot stove league, even in this heat. Just understand that nothing is anywhere near certain at this early stage. If that bores you, we understand.

Get in a nap, then. We'll see you in July, and have a bit of fun.

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