Friday came and went, and just like all the other days that have passed since June 24, 2004, Dwight Howard was still a member of the Orlando Magic.
Despite the Houston Rockets using the amnesty provision to waive forward Luis Scola, there was no trade of Howard from Orlando to Houston, and sources briefed on the talks between the two sides said the teams weren’t nearly as close to a trade as many have speculated. That can change in an instant, of course, but late Friday, there was no deal.
Talks between the two sides are “not active,” one source said Friday.
“There’s nothing happening,” another source said.
The Rockets, according to a league source briefed on the discussions, are willing to take one bad contract back from the Magic, not two or three, as has been speculated. And in return, Houston will give up one of the their three first-round picks in last month’s Draft– Jeremy Lamb, Royce White or Terrence Jones –but only one.
The Rockets would be willing to send a future draft pick to Orlando –presumably the Lottery-protected first-rounder Houston received this week from Toronto for guard Kyle Lowry — and send a veteran player to the Magic, helping Orlando clear $10 to $15 million worth of cap room, in exchange for the six-time All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year.
Orlando has several high-priced contracts it would like to clear if it opts to trade Howard, including forward Hedo Turkoglu (two years, $23.4 million remaining, though the last year of the deal is not fully guaranteed) and guards Jason Richardson (three years, $18.6 million) and Chris Duhon (two years, $7.2 million).
Waiving Scola, who was due $20.6 million over the next three seasons, was not done just to give Houston a better shot at Howard, according to the source. With the Rockets in full pursuit of Howard, however, keeping a high-priced player like Scola on the roster didn’t make much sense going forward — especially if Houston isn’t successful in getting Howard.
By cutting Scola now, the Rockets will be able to take a big contract back at any point this season if it suits their rebuilding plans. After spending the last three years trapped in NBA mediocrity following the injuries to and eventual retirement of franchise center Yao Ming, the Rockets are determined to land a star or construct a roster of players with the potential to become stars.
To that end, the Rockets officially tendered a three-year, $25.1 million offer sheet on Friday to Knicks restricted free agent Jeremy Lin. The Rockets reworked their deal from the original offer they had negotiated with Lin, eliminating a year of the offer but raising Lin’s third-year salary up to $14.898 million, in an attempt to make the offer sheet as difficult as possible for New York to match.
League sources continue to indicate that the Knicks will match, however, feeling Lin’s potential both as a player and as someone whose marketability is unlimited are too important to pass up. But with a roster that currently only has veterans Toney Douglas and Shaun Livingston as point guards, Houston felt it had to do whatever it could to get Lin.
The Rockets are still expected to tender a similar three-year, $25 million offer sheet to Bulls reserve center Omer Asik.
Meanwhile, Orlando continues to take a methodical approach toward dealing Howard, who has indicated the only team with whom he’d be willing to sign a contract extension after this season is Brooklyn. Howard has been adamant that he would not re-sign in Houston if traded there.
However, the Rockets remain convinced they can change his mind once he gets to town. He has a strong relationship with Rockets legend and Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon, who told FoxSportsFlorida Friday night that he’d been asked to reach out to Howard if and when a trade is made.
Orlando is determined trade Howard on its own timetable, when it gets the combination of picks and young players it wants. The Magic, who are still looking to hire a new coach and just hired new general manager Rob Hennigan late last month, may be trying to replicate the formula used by the Nuggets in 2011, when Denver held onto forward Carmelo Anthony for months and months until the Knicks offered a package featuring Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Timofey Mozgov for a Denver package featuring Anthony and Chauncey Billups.
Orlando is continuing to talk to other teams, including the Lakers. But after sending two future firsts and two seconds to the Suns in the sign and trade deal for Steve Nash, Los Angeles is out of Draft picks to offer in the near future. The Nets are out of the picture for the foreseeable future after re-signing center Brook Lopez, who was supposed to be the centerpiece of any offer to Orlando for Howard, to a four-year, $60.8 million deal earlier this week. Under league rules Brooklyn cannot trade Lopez until Jan. 15.