Dwight Howard opens up on demand
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"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 on Monday.
Howard did not specify the team, but Magic general manager Rob Hennigan confirmed Monday what multiple league sources have told ESPN -- Howard wants to be traded to the Brooklyn Nets, making that clear in a meeting the GM had with the Magic center Friday.
The deal as it stands, as reported Sunday night by ESPN.com, calls for the Nets to send the expiring contracts of Jordan Farmar, Johan Petro, Anthony Morrow and Jordan Williams along with DeShawn Stevenson (via sign-and-trade) and a future first-round pick (lottery-protected in 2013 via Houston) to Atlanta in exchange for Johnson. This trade construction allows the Nets to meet two of their key objectives, as they managed to keep promising guard MarShon Brooks out of the trade as well as retain their own first-round pick in 2013.
Hennigan said Monday that Howard singling out one team complicates any potential trade scenarios, but he has not committed to honoring that demand and said he will keep communication lines open with the All-Star and his agent.
"As I told Dwight, I said 'I don't know. I have to think about what you're telling me.' I want to take some time to process everything," Hennigan said of the meeting. "And the answer is we want to map out what's in the best interest of our team."
Hennigan reiterated that beyond sharing Howard's trade request, he wants the discussions beyond that to remain private as a matter of trust between himself and Howard.
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"That's my plan with Dwight and with whoever we talk to on our roster," Hennigan said. "I would leave it to Dwight to share any details he wants to share about the conversation. But again, out of respect for the trust and privacy I'm trying to build, I'm not really going to talk about what else we discussed."
While there might be only one team on Howard's wish list, he doesn't have any clauses in his contract that would allow him to block a trade to any team if the Magic agree to a deal.
Howard also denied an ESPN report that he had told people Magic officials had "blackmailed" him into forgoing the early termination clause in his contract, ultimately costing him his free agency this summer, according to Yahoo! Sports.
"I never used the word blackmail in reference to any of my dealings with the Magic," Howard told Yahoo! Sports. "I never said that. It's defamatory and it's inaccurate. I know what blackmail means and any report that I used the term incorrectly is inaccurate."
Hennigan on Monday also said Howard never claimed during a meeting in California that the Magic had blackmailed him.
Friday was not the first time Howard asked the Magic to trade him. In December, before the lockout-shortened season began, he asked Orlando to deal him to the Nets.
Howard never rescinded his trade request, even after picking up his option on the day of the trade deadline.
After undergoing surgery on his back in April, Howard asked Smith to trade him to the Nets, according to sources. Smith said he would seek a trade, but the Magic fired Smith shortly after the season ended.
Hennigan said Monday that Howard is "progressing well" after back surgery.
"In terms of his health, I think what I can tell you is that Dwight's rehabilitation process is progressing in the right direction," he said. "I do not believe his health will be an issue going forward."
Information from The Associated Press and ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard contributed to this report.