- Ric Bucher, NBA Reporter, ESPN The Magazine Senior Writer
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The Brooklyn Nets and Orlando Magic attempted to execute a last-gasp deal that would send All-Star center Dwight Howard to the Nets, but they could not reach an agreement and talks between the two sides have ended, a source familiar with the negotiations said.
The Nets effectively ended their pursuit of Howard by agreeing to terms with center Brook Lopez on a four-year, $60 million max contract, a league source confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com.
Sources said earlier Wednesday the Nets had decided to "resolve" their situation with Howard by 6 p.m. ET.
That inspired renewed talks, in which the Nets offered four future first-round picks, Lopez and power forward Kris Humphries in sign-and-trade deals and $3 million to acquire Howard, Jason Richardson, Chris Duhon and Earl Clark, the source said.
That offer was rejected by the Magic, who did not want Humphries and also wanted to unload Quentin Richardson. Brooklyn's sign-and-trade proposal would have involved Humphries signing a heavily front-loaded multiyear contract, with only the first-year salary fully guaranteed.
Without a third team to take Humphries, the Nets had no choice but to reject the Magic's counteroffer and extend Lopez, who cannot be traded until Jan. 15 because of the new collective bargaining agreement's rules.
"We've moved on. It just got to a point where we couldn't keep going back and forth with Orlando. They had about 14 days to do something and didn't. We just had to move on, and we felt that way this morning," a Nets source told ESPNNewYork.com's Ian O'Connor.
The source said Lopez was close to signing an offer sheet, which would have prevented his inclusion in a Howard trade, anyway. One source close to the process told ESPN.com's Marc Stein the Portland Trail Blazers and Charlotte Bobcats had informed Lopez's camp they are prepared to sign him to four-year max offer sheets.
"Brook had two offer sheets [from Portland and Charlotte] and was about to sign one of them. We couldn't wait anymore," the source told O'Connor.
While the Nets consider their pursuit of Howard over, Magic general manager Rob Hennigan said in a news conference Wednesday that he is still talking to Brooklyn, characterizing the talks as being in "a stationary position."
"We are not coming up with any arbitrary timelines," Hennigan said, adding that reports that talks between the Nets and Magic have been suspended are "not accurate."
Lopez's agent had been pushing the Nets to either sign Lopez themselves or do a sign-and-trade by the end of the day, sources told ESPN.com's Chad Ford. General manager Billy King was expected to meet with the agent for Lopez in Los Angeles on Wednesday, sources said.
When asked if Howard will remain with the team, Hennigan said: "We want our players to be invested in the organization."
Hennigan confirmed he spoke with Howard on Wednesday, and said the conversation was "positive" and "conversational," despite reports that the GM had told Howard the talks were dead.
A league source familiar with the Magic's position said: "From the beginning, they were going to do a deal that works best for their team. It just isn't on the table."
Sources told ESPN.com the Rockets are discussing a multitude of trade scenarios with the Magic, offering to serve both as the team that would acquire Howard in a direct trade between the clubs and also as a third team that would participate in a trade that lands Howard with the Lakers and brings All-Star center Andrew Bynum to Houston.
Sources say Hennigan might feel more comfortable taking back a package of youngsters, recent draftees and future first-round draft picks -- while shedding some long-term salary as well -- than taking on Bynum as Howard's replacement and facing a similar challenge in convincing him to commit to the franchise long-term like the Magic have dealt with for months with Howard.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak refused to discuss Howard with reporters following Wednesday's news conference to introduce Steve Nash.
"NBA rules prohibit us from discussing other teams' players," Kupchak told reporters. "We are still pursuing moves to improve our team."
Kupchak added that he has not begun contract extension negotiations with Bynum, who has one year remaining on his deal.
Bynum and his agent, David Lee, are currently on a fishing expedition in Alaska.
ESPN.com's Marc Stein, Brian Windhorst, Chad Ford, ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin and ESPNNewYork.com's Ian O'Connor and Mike Mazzeo contributed to this report.
23hMatt Walks, ESPN.com