NBA.com staff reports
Want to know how we got where we are with Dwight Howard and his future? Just turn the calendar back two days …
It all started with reports of a meeting between Howard, his associates and Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov and GM Billy King in Miami on Thursday night. ESPN.com reported the meeting and if such a discussion did take place, it was a clear violation of NBA tampering rules.
By lunchtime on the East coast (and well before teams opened training camp doors), news had already come out (courtesy of our own tireless David Aldridge) that the Magic might file tampering charges against two unnamed teams for illegally talking with its star big man. By the end of the night on free-agency’s first full day, Howard’s status in Orlando (or elsewhere for that matter) remained squarely in the crosshairs.
ESPN.com reported earlier Friday that Howard would soon request a trade to New Jersey. Later that same day, Howard’s agent, Dan Fegan, denied that his client had illegal contact with teams in an interview with ESPN The Magazine. Worth noting, too, is that Magic GM Otis Smith said he granted Fegan permission to speak to the Nets about a deal involving Howard. Fegan didn’t deny that he and Howard had spoken over the phone with the Nets, but did deny any face-to-face meetings. We’ll let Fegan speak for himself, as he did to The Magazine and other media outlets:
“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.
“In addition, the report that Dwight was supposed to be traded today is also inaccurate. In fact, so many of the facts reported in today’s story are inaccurate, it is difficult to separate the facts from fiction, so I’m not even going to bother to address the other inaccuracies.”
King, for his part, denied the meeting with Howard.
After all those statements and such, Smith came out early Saturday morning and said he has given permission for Howard’s representatives to discuss the All-Star center’s long-term future with three other teams. We’ll let the Orlando Sentinel‘s Josh Robbins take it from here:
Magic spokesman Joel Glass confirmed that General Manager Otis Smith gave Howard’s representatives to speak with three teams.
One of those teams clearly is the Nets.
Talks between agents and perspective destination teams allow both parties to determine whether they’d be a good long-term match before a trade is made.
Those talks don’t guarantee a trade will be made. Indeed, Magic officials continue to say they want to keep Howard long-term. And even if Howard decides on a specific team, it does not mean the Magic are required to trade him there.
Still, the permission given by Smith appears to be the most tangible sign yet that the Magic know they may have to trade Howard if the All-NBA center tells them he will not re-sign with them.
Who else is on this mystical three-team dockett aside from the Nets? No one knows for sure, but SI.com’s Sam Amick says the Lakers and Mavericks round out the trio. While we wait to figure out just who the teams are, new Magic CEO Alex Martins is taking the tampering claims seriously:
With indications growing that Howard would ask for a trade to the Nets this week, sources told SI.com on Friday morning that the Magic were investigating the alleged meeting between New Jersey owner Mikhail Prokhorov and Orlando’s franchise player on Thursday in Miami. NBA.com first reported that the Magic were considering tampering charges against two unnamed teams, and ESPN.com later reported that Nets general manager Billy King and business associates were also at the alleged meeting. Because teams are not authorized to speak with another team’s players without permission, any such meeting would be considered tampering and the Nets could be subject to fines and the loss of draft picks.
Martins, reached via phone late Friday night, said the alleged meeting was still being investigated and reiterated that the matter would be taken seriously.
“They did not have permission to talk to him,” Martins told SI.com. “We’re continuing to gather the information based on the stories, and we’ll evaluate whether we’re going to take any action once we have all of our information.”
And as Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski points out, New Jersey isn’t just solely trying to get Superman on its roster this summer:
The Nets have a chance to close on a four-year, $60 million-plus deal for Denver Nuggets free-agent center Nene this weekend, but are working relentlessly to make a deal with Orlando for Howard, league sources said. Howard has been waffling between wanting a deal to the Lakers and Hollywood, and wanting to join point guard Deron Williams with the Nets and be the cornerstone of the franchise’s move to a new Brooklyn arena in 2012-13, sources told Y! Sports.
The group likely most fretting what happens next are Magic fans. Howard was less than forthcoming about his future after the team’s first practice today (just watch the clip above to hear exactly what his priorities are tonight) and Orlando-ans are probably having flashbacks from when another marquee big man (Shaq) skipped town for L.A. 15 years ago …