Dan Fegan, the agent for Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, dismissed reports his client had illegal contact with the New Jersey Nets, saying Howard had received permission to explore potential trades.
Magic general manager Otis Smith confirmed to ESPN The Magazine on Friday night that he granted permission to Fegan to speak to the Nets about a deal involving Howard.
Otis also confirmed that Howard has formally asked to be traded.
Fegan read the following prepared statement over the phone to The Magazine: "I read reports today of a meeting between Dwight Howard, his representatives and the New Jersey Nets which claimed, according to the story's anonymous sources, that such a meeting violated the NBA's tampering policies. This story is clearly inaccurate with respect to tampering claims and other facts. Tampering doesn't apply once a team grants permission for a player and/or his representatives to make contact with another team. The Magic have given us permission to have contact with several teams in order for Dwight to explore his options. I most definitely had contact with the teams I was granted permission to speak with. Since we had permission to have contact with several teams the report of possible tampering is undeniably false."
Magic spokesman Joel Glass says the team has granted New Jersey, Dallas and the L.A. Lakers permission to talk to Fegan to discuss possible trades.
Howard, however, has not been given such permission and even a mere phone conversation with another club could qualify as tampering.
Fegan said both he and Howard have spoken by phone with the Nets but no face-to-face meeting has occurred.
Sources told Broussard that Howard had flown to Miami on Thursday to meet with Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov.
Magic chief executive officer Alex Martins told The Associated Press the Magic have not filed tampering charges with the NBA against any team for interference with Howard.
"Well there aren't any tampering charges," Martins told the AP. "What I would say to that is that Dwight is under contract with us
and our rules in the league are very explicit about the fact when a
player's under contract with the team, other teams are not allowed to contact the player or player's representative about them.
"And if that's been voided in any way, we'll deal with it to the fullest extent that the NBA constitution allows. But at this
stage there aren't any tampering charges."
The Magic firmly believe the Thursday meeting between Howard and the Nets took place and that there is evidence to prove it, sources said. But they are undecided about whether they will file charges against the Nets.
Howard, in a telephone conversation Friday with ESPN.com, denied meeting with the Nets.
Fegan, Howard and the Magic were committed to quietly determining where the Magic center might go to avoid the media attention that New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul received in recent weeks and Carmelo Anthony endured last winter when he left the Denver Nuggets for the New York Knicks.
The Magic are determined not to relive the experience they had with Shaquille O'Neal, who went to the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent in 1996 and left Orlando with nothing in return.
The Magic have had talks with the Nets and the Lakers about a potential trade, but talks with the Lakers have fizzled recently, sources said.
Orlando believes the Nets' package of Brook Lopez, two first-round picks and a willingness to take back Hedo Turkoglu's three-year, $34 million contract is not enough compensation for Howard.
Ric Bucher and Chris Broussard are senior NBA writers for ESPN The Magazine.