LONDON – The end of the Dwight Howard Odyssey could-could-be over soon for the Orlando Magic.
The team is in serious discussions with the Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers about a potential deal that would send Howard to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to the Magic, Andre Iguodala to the Nuggets and Andrew Bynum to the 76ers. Other players and Draft picks would be included in the deal as well, with the possibility that Gasol or could be flipped for additional assets.
In this scenario, first reported Thursday by Yahoo! Sports, forward Al Harrington would go from Denver to the Lakers, and guard Arron Afflalo would go from Denver to the Magic. However, the final version of the deal, if it happens, would certainly involve additional players — or, perhaps, some of these players winding up in different places.
Two sources said Thursday that this deal could happen, although with so many teams and so many moving parts, the potential for the deal collapsing is ever-present. Another source had indicated to NBA.com earlier in the week that a “blockbuster” deal was on hold because at least two of the teams involved did not want to move forward.
Orlando, however, is determined to end the Howard saga as soon as possible — provided it gets what it wants. It has been adamant that it wants a combination of future picks, young players with short or otherwise reasonable contracts and the removal of some of their its contracts in exchange for Howard.
The Lakers are out of future picks to give in the near term after giving two firsts and two seconds to the Suns last month in exchange for Steve Nash. However, Denver does have at least one additional first-round pick it could give to Orlando.
The Nuggets have the Knicks’ 2014 first-round pick as part of the Carmelo Anthony trade in 2011, and they can swap first-rounders with New York in 2016. Because the picks are from another team, and Denver still has all of its own picks, the Nuggets could also include a future first-rounder of their own in 2013 without violating the so-called “Stepien Rule” that prohibits teams from trading Draft picks in consecutive years.
With Gasol scheduled to make $38 million over the next two years, it’s unlikely the Magic — who have already used their amnesty provision on guard Gilbert Arenas — would be interested in carrying that contract forward. So it is possible that Gasol could be re-routed somewhere else. The Rockets and Timberwolves have both long coveted Gasol, and each has a wealth of young players and/or picks that could be packaged for the 32-year-old, who is playing here for his native Spain in the Olympics.
It was not clear Thursday if Howard, still rehabbing in Los Angeles after back surgery in April, had in any way changed his stance that the only team with whom he’d sign an extension after being traded and not become a free agent next July was Brooklyn. The Nets, however, moved on after dallying for months with Orlando in various Howard scenarios, re-signing their own restricted free agent, center Brook Lopez, to a four-year, $61 million contract last month.
Under NBA rules, Lopez — who was the centerpiece of the various trade proposals the Nets made to the Magic — cannot be traded until at least next Jan. 15.
The Nuggets have already made major financial commitments to center JaVale McGee (four years, $44 million) and forward Wilson Chandler ($37 million), and would like to extend guard Ty Lawson before he hits restricted free agency. Taking on the remaining $30 million of Iguodala’s contract would require jettisoning some money elsewhere. Harrington has three years and $21.4 million left on his deal; Afflalo is in the second year of a five-year contract signed just last year for $38.75 million.
Philadelphia has been looking for more size in the middle for the last year or so. But Bynum is also an uncertain variable; there is no guarantee that he would agree to sign an extension with the 76ers or explore free agency.