HANG TIME NEW JERSEY —
The Brooklyn Nets are going to have a news conference later this week. Sitting next to general manager Billy King at the podium will be Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and the Nets’ center.
Right now, we don’t know if that center will be Brook Lopez (re-signed like Williams and Gerald Wallace) or Dwight Howard (acquired via trade like Johnson). But things may be leaning toward the latter, according to a pair of reports that hit the interwebs on Sunday night.
Both ESPN and Yahoo! say that the Nets and Orlando Magic are making progress on a deal that would send Howard to Brooklyn to form a new Big Four with Williams, Johnson and Wallace.
The Magic are portraying patience in making a deal for Howard, but have a strong distaste for engaging in a prolonged process that drags into the summer. From new general manager Rob Hennigan through Orlando ownership, the Magic want to find the best possible deal for Howard soon and cut ties with him, sources said.
As Orlando sorts through the offers, Howard’s potential destination is increasingly looking like the Nets, sources said.
As much as Hennigan prefers to send Howard to a Western Conference team, the Magic keep coming back to the Nets as the best, safest package. Howard’s preferred trade partner – Brooklyn – has pushed into overdrive in offering up trade scenarios and options for the Magic, sources said. For now, Orlando prefers Nets restricted free-agent center Brook Lopez as a centerpiece player over having its pick of the Houston Rockets’ roster, sources said.
The Nets need some help to get the deal done, because the Magic aren’t interested in a signed-and-traded Kris Humphries. And though it seems unlikely that an Eastern Conference team would want to assist in the creation of a superteam in Brooklyn, ESPN reporters Chris Broussard and Brian Windhorst write that the Cleveland Cavaliers could be the third team involved in a Howard trade.
The Brooklyn Nets’ persistent efforts to recruit the Cleveland Cavaliers as a third team to help them hammer home a trade for Dwight Howard are starting to pay off, according to sources close to the process.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Nets and Magic are cautiously optimistic that the Cavaliers will help them facilitate a three-way trade that lands Howard in Brooklyn.
Free agent Kris Humphries would be one of the key pieces headed to Cleveland in the proposed deal. The Cavaliers, however, have enough cap space to sign Humphries outright, so they have requested additional assets from their two prospective trade partners.
A deal with the Nets would have to happen in the next couple of days. The free agency moratorium period ends at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday. And the Nets just can’t keep Lopez (a restricted free agent) hanging.
No matter who their center is next season, the Nets will be pretty good. But if they can finally land Howard (we’ve been talking about this scenario since they traded for Williams 17 months ago), they’ll be serious title contenders … and will be conducting one heck of a news conference later this week.