The Cleveland Cavaliers may have inched ahead of the Houston Rockets as a facilitator in a potential trade that would send Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers, sources said Wednesday.
One source familiar with the talks, though, cautioned not to make too much of that shift just yet.
The Cavaliers would land Lakers center Andrew Bynum for a package of draft picks and veteran power forward Anderson Varejao, according to one league source. The Lakers would receive Howard for Bynum. Orlando would get Varejao and draft picks. The source said this was merely the framework of a deal being discussed.
Cavaliers general manager Chris Grant was in Las Vegas watching summer-league action but made an unplanned return to Cleveland, sources say, and is not expected to return. In the frenzy of anticipating if, when and where Howard might be dealt, such otherwise innocuous events have been enough to inspire massive speculation that a deal is near.
The Lakers have engaged both the Rockets and Cavaliers in their attempt to land Howard, sources say, because those two teams have both interest in acquiring Bynum, and have the requisite salary-cap room to accept larger player salaries than they send out in a deal.
Sources close to Howard say that as of now, after mistakenly depriving himself of free agency this summer by opting into the final year of his deal with the Magic, he has no intention of doing so again.
The Lakers remained dogged in their pursuit of Howard late into the night Wednesday and plan to continue discussions into Thursday, a league source told ESPNLosAngeles.com, but the longer the process drags on, the more it complicates the team's other offseason business.
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.
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.
Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin and Ramona Shelburne was used in this report.