While everyone sorts out the whole tampering issue involving the New Jersey Nets and Dwight Howard, one thing is clear: Howard has formally requested a trade from the Orlando Magic, and via Yahoo! Sports he appears to be targeting the Nets.
Obviously disappointing news to many Lakers fans who have gone all in emotionally on Howard coming to L.A., but it doesn't necessarily mean the Lakers are out. Orlando G.M. Otis Smith is going to trade Howard to the team offering the best deal, and if Mitch Kupchak is able to construct a better one than Jersey's Billy King, the Lakers probably win the derby. Remember, too, while the Nets have more cap flexibility and draft picks to work with, unless something changes drastically with the revised terms of the proposed Chris Paul trade, the Lakers still have the single most appealing player available to offer in Andrew Bynum.
I'm not exactly sure how Kupchak puts together a large enough package to sway Smith, but at least he starts with the best chip.
Meanwhile, while Howard reportedly has expressed a preference for the Nets, multiple sources sourcing their sources sources say he's also keeping the door to L.A. open. I don't believe for a second if he were to be traded here he wouldn't stay, particularly given the money he'd have to leave on the table to sign elsewhere.
There's very real chance Howard goes somewhere other than the Lakers. He could land in New Jersey. Maybe Dallas makes a late, great pitch (and I'd love to read Mark Cuban's post-trade comments given his criticism of CP3-to-L.A.). The process could take a few days, a week or two, or longer. But until you hear someone-- Howard, preferably, but failing that multiple sources close to him-- say unequivocally that he won't sign with the Lakers they trade for him or the Lakers themselves declare they're out, try not to get too bogged down in the details.
Like the giant fountains outside Cesar's Palace, this process comes with fluidity built in.