As the Orlando Magic work to unload superstar Dwight Howard, management is becoming increasingly focused on a potential trade package centered on Los Angeles Lakers All-Star center Andrew Bynum, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
The Lakers and Magic have had talks about a possible deal, and plan to talk further about constructing a trade. No deals are imminent, and the process has remained fluid as teams have begun to inquire with more serious offers for Howard.
Sources say there is one other trade scenario for a significant player that intrigues Magic general manager Rob Hennigan, but that target is unclear. Before the Magic would agree to consummate a trade for Bynum, they would need to know they could sign him to a contract extension, sources said. Bynum is entering the final year of his contract in the 2012-13 season.
What’s more, Bynum wouldn’t nearly be enough to satisfy Hennigan’s desires for a return on Howard. The Lakers would need to send draft picks and absorb long-term money off the Magic’s payroll, sources said.
The Lakers offered Bynum to the Magic for Howard at the March trade deadline, but the deal never materialized because Howard eventually waived his early termination option for this summer, and Orlando pulled Howard off the market.
The Magic are in no rush to make a deal for Howard, sources said. Howard is rehabilitating from back surgery in Los Angeles, and it’s unclear whether he would even be ready for the start of the regular season in November.
However positively the Magic feel about Bynum, they still need the Lakers to take back one of their expensive veteran contracts – Hedo Turkoglu or Jason Richardson – as part of any proposed trade. With Bynum, Orlando could use cap space to quickly retool its roster around him and become an Eastern Conference contender. Bynum is coming off his best season for the Lakers, averaging 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds. Still, his immaturity at times left Lakers coaches and officials unsettled about his disposition to be an every-night dominant player.
Howard told Yahoo! Sports on Sunday night that, ”There's only one team on my list and if I don't get traded there, I'll play the season out and explore my free agency after that.” Howard told Yahoo! Sports that he requested a trade during the season, and repeated that request again on Friday in a meeting with Hennigan in Los Angeles.
Nevertheless, the Lakers believe that once they bring Howard into their winning culture, the Hollywood celebrity scene and tradition of great centers, that there’s no team elsewhere offering salary-cap space to sign him in 2013 that could get Howard to leave for less money than they could offer him with his Bird Rights. The Lakers have wanted to know that Howard would sign an extension should they trade for him, but with the Nets' salary cap space gobbled up, the chances of Howard agreeing to a deal will likely increase dramatically.
Howard’s next Adidas deal will be worth significantly more money – perhaps even double – if he’s playing in the major market of Los Angeles or New York, sources told Yahoo!
The Magic have continued discussions with the Brooklyn Nets and Houston Rockets, but aren’t enamored with the possibilities of players and picks that those teams can offer. Orlando likes Brook Lopez, but the prospects of paying the restricted free agent near a max contract is unappealing. Power forward Kris Humphries holds no appeal to Orlando, and a third team would be needed to give him a multiyear contract in a sign-and-trade deal.
The Lakers had been on Howard’s initial list of three preferred teams – along with Brooklyn and Dallas – but eventually dropped off. Part of the reason has been the frayed relationship between Howard and Kobe Bryant. Those two stars had a contentious phone conversation over a year ago about Howard’s potential offensive role with the Lakers, sources said, and there’s been an uncertainty between both about how they would co-exist on the floor.
Nevertheless, Bryant and Howard do have history together with Team USA, and there’s a belief among those who know them that the bond of chasing a title would ultimately bring them together.
“They would fight for the first week of training camp, and then be best buddies by the start of the preseason games," one league source who knows both Bryant and Howard well told Yahoo! Sports. "They need each other to win.”
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