Source: Lakers vie for Dwight Howard

Updated: July 23, 2012, 9:24 AM ET
By Dave McMenamin and Ramona Shelburne | ESPNLA.com

While the Los Angeles Lakers continued to engage the Orlando Magic in discussions to acquire All-Star center Dwight Howard, there was no face-to-face meeting between Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and Orlando general manager Rob Hennigan on Tuesday, a league source told ESPNLosAngeles.com.

The Lakers remain committed to pursuing Howard even without assurances he'd sign a long-term extension with the club. What's unclear to both sides is whether Orlando would accept Andrew Bynum without assurances he'd sign a long-term extension.

Cleveland and Houston, both of whom are under the salary cap and rich in prospects and future draft picks, have engaged the Magic as potential third-team facilitators. However nothing is imminent on that front and the most substantial discussions have been directly between Orlando and Los Angeles.

The Rockets have had Howard at the top of their wish list for months and have made moves to pursue him, from collecting first-round picks in the draft to using the amnesty clause on Luis Scola. However, Houston's Howard pursuit could come to a halt if the Chicago Bulls do not match the Rockets' offer sheet to restricted free-agent center Omer Asik, worth $25 million over three years. Signing Asik along with Tuesday's acquisition of Jeremy Lin would eat up much of the cap space Houston had cleared to take on extra salary in a Howard deal.

Like Orlando's protracted and unfruitful negotiations with Brooklyn a few weeks ago, this latest round of talks is starting to hamstring business around the league, multiple sources have told ESPNLosAngeles.com, and there is a growing possibility the Lakers or one of the other teams would simply walk away from the talks at some point this week.

If a Howard trade isn't feasible, the Lakers would quickly turn their attention to resuming extension talks with Bynum and re-signing forward Jordan Hill. If Bynum agrees to an extension, it would start the clock on a deal for Howard in much the same way Brooklyn's extension with Brook Lopez did.

Bynum and his agent, David Lee, are scheduled to return from an Alaskan fishing vacation Wednesday. Lakers officials are set to meet Wednesday to discuss their negotiating strategy with Bynum before reaching out to his representative but are well aware that there will not be much wiggle room once the negotiations begin; Bynum will expect a max contract extension.

While the Cavaliers are interested in Bynum, sources said, they also have a tremendous amount of assets and flexibility over the next three years with the ability to absorb contracts, three first-round picks and two second-rounders, in addition to veteran big man Anderson Varejao and young forward Tristan Thompson.

The Lakers, meanwhile, have so far been resistant to taking on the types of burdensome contracts Orlando is hoping to unload in a deal for Howard. That position has only been strengthened, sources said, by their acquisition of Steve Nash two weeks ago.

Howard has not yet relented on his position that he would not commit to signing an extension with the Lakers before a trade. However sources said the long-rumored unease with Kobe Bryant is "overblown" and will not be a decisive issue.

While trade talks swirled around him Tuesday night, Howard took in the Los Angeles Dodgers-Philadelphia Phillies game from a luxury suite at Dodger Stadium. He didn't wear a Dodgers hat when he appeared on the JumboTron in the seventh inning to a loud ovation but he was wearing one as he left before the eighth inning. Howard was surrounded by a dozen members of stadium security and LAPD officers as he was escorted to his car as dozens of fans tried to take his picture and recruit him to play in Los Angeles. When he was asked if he was coming to Los Angeles, Howard simply said, "I'm here now to rehab."

ESPNLosAngeles.com's Arash Markazi and ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst contributed to this report.

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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