The New Jersey Nets have entered into serious talks with the Orlando Magic on a multi-team trade scenario that would bring Dwight Howard to the Nets, according to sources close to the process.
Sources told ESPN.com that the most active proposal discussed by the teams would make Portland Trail Blazers swingman Gerald Wallace and Nets center Brook Lopez two of the main pieces Orlando would receive in exchange for Howard.
As part of such a trade, which could be expanded to include a fourth team, sources say Orlando also would shed the long-term contracts of Hedo Turkoglu and Chris Duhon — both would be absorbed by the Nets — while also potentially receiving future draft considerations.
Other players would have to be added to the deal to make the salary-cap math work, but sources said Portland would receive multiple first-round picks as part of the exchange for surrendering Wallace and facilitating the trade.
Yet it remains to be seen if the Brooklyn-bound Nets can convince the Magic to indeed go through with trading Howard before the season starts. Earlier this week, one source familiar with the Magic’s thinking insisted to ESPN.com that they were not yet prepared to trade Howard, clinging to the hope that he can be talked into staying.
Howard himself is known for changing his views on the matter on a near-daily basis, torn by his desire to move to a more glamorous market such as Brooklyn or Los Angeles, and the prospect of staying with the team that drafted him and delivering the championship to Orlando that Shaquille O’Neal could not.
One source said the Nets were moving “aggressively” in their pursuit of Howard after Nene — New Jersey’s top free-agent target — agreed to terms Tuesday night on a five-year, $67 million deal to return to the Denver Nuggets.
The Nets also know they likely have to fend off the Lakers, who have long been linked with a possible trade for Howard with an offer built around young center Andrew Bynum.
But there also is a sense around the league that the Lakers’ re-emergence in the Chris Paul sweepstakes could signify the Lakers’ belief the Nets are in the lead for Howard.
It’s believed that a deal for Howard ultimately will force the Nets to not only release forward Travis Outlaw through the amnesty clause, provided by the league’s new collective bargaining agreement, but also to renounce the rights to free-agent power forward Kris Humphries.
The question remains: How fast is Orlando willing to move when it comes to surrendering Howard, who can become a free agent in July 2012 along with Paul and Nets star guard Deron Williams.
New Magic CEO Alex Martins met with Howard Monday at Amway Center. Afterward, Howard sounded as if he’d softened on the possibility of staying in Orlando — as long as there are some changes.
“I love this city, there is no place I’d rather be but Orlando,” Howard said. “I just want to make sure we have the right things here so we can win a championship. I’m all about change. If you’re willing to change and you’re willing to do what it takes to win then, you know, you got me.”
Martins, promoted to CEO just last week after the surprising resignation of Bob Vander Weide, has insisted publicly that the franchise believes it can keep Howard and convince him to extend his contract. But the Nets have been targeting Howard for months, convinced that re-signing Williams can be assured next summer if they can complete an in-season deal for Howard.
“I’m an optimist,” Martins said Monday. “I am confident that we can work with Dwight and convince him to stay here long term.”
Days earlier, Orlando announced that it would allow Howard to speak with the Lakers, Nets and Dallas Mavericks about a trade. On Tuesday, ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard reported that the Lakers, Nets, Mavericks and Magic are the only four teams Howard is willing to commit to long-term.
Marc Stein and Chad Ford cover the NBA for ESPN.com. Information from ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst was used in this report.