Magic general manager Otis Smith told the Orlando Sentinel on Saturday afternoon that Howard had requested a trade, and Yahoo! Sports first reported that his destination of choice was the Nets. It was the latest twist in what was already a surreal story, as Howard's alleged meeting with Nets officials on Thursday had sparked an investigation by the Magic as they considered filing tampering charges against New Jersey. Howard's agent Dan Fegan told reporters on Friday night that he had been given permission to explore trades with the Nets, Mavericks and Lakers, and the question now becomes how Smith will proceed with the future of the franchise.
The Magic are determined not to be devastated by the loss of a superstar center like they were when Shaquille O'Neal left for the Lakers as a free agent in 1996, and sources close to the team said there will be no rush to judgment on Howard's fate, no matter how uncomfortable the relationship might get leading up to the March trade deadline. When Howard requested a trade earlier this week, the source said he was told the Magic wouldn't succumb to the mounting pressure and that Howard should be prepared to play for the Magic for the foreseeable future. And considering the team's decision to continue to pursue tampering charges against the Nets, the dynamics involved to get a deal done with New Jersey would appear to be quite complex at the moment.
"They did not have permission to talk to him," Magic CEO Alex Martins said regarding the Nets' alleged visit with Howard in Miami that was first reported by SI.com and said to include New Jersey owner Mikhail Prokhorov. "We're continuing to gather the information based on the stories, and we'll evaluate whether we're going to take any action once we have all of our information."
According to ESPN.com, the Nets are prepared to offer center Brook Lopez and two future first-round draft picks while agreeing to take back small forward Hedo Turkoglu (three years and a combined $35.1 million remaining) in a possible deal. Howard is set to become a free agent next summer, and his possible pairing with Nets point guard and fellow 2012 free agent Deron Williams could create the league's latest star-studded squad just as the team moves to Brooklyn next season.
But there were no guarantees that proposal would be enough even before the turmoil began, let alone now that the Nets could be facing significant fines from the league and the possible loss of draft picks should Orlando proceed with its case. Meanwhile, the Nets this week offered free agent center Nene a four-year, $60 million deal, which the New York Daily News reported has since been increased.