ORLANDO — General manager Rob Hennigan would not say he’s suspended trade talks for disgruntled All-Star center Dwight Howard, but did admit the process has stalled and the Magic will take a step back to regroup.
Hennigan had been in talks in recent days with the Lakers, Rockets, Hawks and Howard’s preferred destination of the Nets.
“As currently constructed, there’s not much there,” Hennigan said of his talks with the Nets. “I’m not sure there’s much more to discuss.”
The Nets signed center Brook Lopez, the centerpiece of a package that Orlando would receive in return for Howard, to a maximum contract. That eliminates the salary cap space the Nets would have to trade for Howard and, according to NBA rules, make Lopez ineligible to be traded before Jan. 15.
“We tried,” Hennigan reportedly told Howard during their conversation.
Hennigan denied that the Magic were turning away from the Howard situation entirely in order to concentrate on hiring a new head coach for the team.
“That’s not accurate,” Hennigan said, though admitting that he hoped to have the job filled soon.
Warriors assistant Michael Malone, Spurs assistant Jacques Vaughn, Jazz assistant Jeff Hornacek, Suns player development coach Lindsey Hunter and Pacers associate head coach Brian Shaw are said to be the prime candidates for the position.
The Howard saga is now dragging on into its eighth month from the time that he first said he wanted out of Orlando and named the Nets, Lakers and Mavericks on a short list of preferred destinations. But the Nets were always at the top of that list and sources say that Howard is “frustrated” that a deal to get him to Brooklyn couldn’t be completed.
Now, with Lopez signed and the Nets apparently ready to move on with the a lineup that includes Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace, that door could be closed for good.
While Hennigan said he would rule nothing out, even keeping Howard in Orlando — “there’s a chance, yeah” — it is clear that the team is now firmly in control of the ongoing soap opera and will hardly make concessions to benefit the one-time foundation of the team.
“Our deserve to know that we want whoever is on our roster to be about certain things,” Hennigan said. “We want our players to be invested in the organization.”
Virtually nobody can envision Howard, a one-time beloved figure in Orlando, being willing to once more don the Magic jersey and take the court to feel the wrath of the home fans that he has betrayed.
Hennigan stressed that while he was ready to step back to take a long view of the process, he was not closing the door on any potential deal at any time.
“I’ll tell you that we’re not confining ourselves to a time window,” he said. “We’re confining ourselves with a window that allows us to go through our process and analyze the situation. We’re not just sitting there on a treadmill and not making any progress. Some days you move forward and some days a little backward, but at the end of the day it’s about being comfortable with the decisions we’re gonna make and being comfortable with the basis for those decisions.”