UPDATE (10:41 am PT)- ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard reports the Magic are, in the wake of Howard's comments last night, more open to moving him unless he makes some sort of commitment to Orlando. "Dwight Howard's public plea late Tuesday to remain in Orlando for the rest of the season has only served to anger the Magic and has instead pushed them closer than ever to trading their superstar center, according to league sources with knowledge of the situation," writes Broussard. While I suspect any deal would likely land him with New Jersey -- I can't imagine a team like the Lakers giving up real value absent a commitment from Howard not likely coming -- it looks like Howard's comments may have goosed the trade market in a few ways.)
The ever-developing developing Dwight Howard story developed ever more Tuesday night, when after the Magic beat Miami in Orlando, the All-Star center said he hopes not to move before Thursday's trade deadline. Reports ESPN.com's Michael Wallace:
"Howard, who is in the middle of wide-ranging trade speculation, said he has talked with Magic owner Rich DeVos and other front-office executives about his desire to stay for the past two weeks. But Howard would not commit to signing a long-term contract extension and could opt out of his deal to enter free agency in the summer.
"We've been talking, like I said, for a while," Howard said after leading the Magic to a 104-98 overtime home victory against the Miami Heat. "I told them I want to finish this season out and give our team, give our fans some hope for the future. But I feel they have to roll the dice. It might be tough, but I feel we've got a great opportunity. But they've got to roll it."
This benefits a few people. First, LeBron James, because even he of "taking my talents" fame cringed at Howard's horrendous "roll the dice" line. It also benefits Howard, since the prevailing opinion is he wants to stay only so he can then opt out in July, and sign with a more fully stocked Nets team.
The Lakers haven't seemed like true players in the Howard sweepstakes in a while, but his comments Tuesday night could add some clarity to the hours leading up to the deadline and serve to loosen up what has to this point been a pretty quiet market. If teams still interested in Howard (and by extension, teams waiting on teams still interested) feel he's staying put for now and the jump to Brooklyn is inevitable, they can start looking at respective plan B's more earnestly.