"The Orlando Magic have told rival executives that they might not trade Dwight Howard after all, according to league sources.
An executive who has had discussions with the Magic regarding Howard said Orlando only will trade the star center in a deal that is great for the franchise. The executive said this has been Orlando's stance for the past "week or so." Another executive who has talked with Orlando said he thinks the Magic may start the season with Howard and wait until the February trade deadline to move him.
Each executive left the door open for posturing, noting that the Magic may be bluffing in hopes of coaxing better offers out of opposing teams. But the overriding sense is that Howard may not be moved for weeks, if not months."
Translation: Orlando hopes (as you'd expect) to extract as much from this deal as possible, and (at least outwardly and publicly) won't be pushed into what they feel is a less-than-appropriate return on Howard in the service of expediency.
And while fans in every Dwight-affected city wants some resolution -- media wouldn't complain about a different story to cover, either -- it doesn't serve the Magic much to settle now for a deal they feel could just as easily be had before the season or at the trade deadline. Yes, opening the year with Howard on the roster would be a distraction for a Magic team bringing in a new coach, and, yes, it wouldn't be much fun for anyone in that organization. But we're talking about the transaction likely to define Orlando for years down the road.
It's not like they're jeopardizing a chance at a winning season by waiting until the deadline to make a trade. If anything, Orlando risks not losing enough games to make their first rounder in 2013's draft more valuable.
Waiting brings Brooklyn back into play, since center Brook Lopez, who recently signed an extension with the Nets, would be able to be traded. As would other players on their roster.
The Lakers could still be viable, even if Andrew Bynum inks an extension this summer and even if they announce publicly they're out. Other teams could enter the picture, expanding the market for Howard and therefore driving up his price.
No question, it could backfire. New Magic G.M. Rob Hennigan could play it too cute and find the team holding the bag.
The good news for the Lakers is they really don't need to get wrapped up in Orlando's schedule. Howard represents an upgrade, no question, but it's not like L.A. faces a huge hole at center should they be "forced" to play with Bynum. The mechanics of this aren't a huge mystery: Unless Orlando has a change in strategy, the Lakers will need a third team to facilitate Howard's arrival. Maybe they agree to take on a little more salary, but in broad terms everyone knows what's going out the door should the Lakers acquire Howard.
And, of course, the report was qualified in a "might not." Meaning by definition "might" is also in play. Howard could be moved tonight, tomorrow, next week, next month or sometime next season.
But he will be moved, and the Lakers are still strong candidates to eventually land him.