But the deal died just hours after it was first revealed by ESPN.com, as two sources confirmed that the Magic are taking Howard off the market for the time being.
The deal would have sent Howard, small forward Hedo Turkoglu and point guard Chris Duhon to the Nets; Blazers small forward Gerald Wallace, Nets centers Brook Lopez and Johan Petro, and possibly a first-round draft pick to the Magic; and a whopping four first-round draft picks to the Blazers.
ESPN.com first reported Portland's involvement, and numerous outlets indicated that a fourth team was potentially involved as well. The re-emergence of the Nets came as no surprise considering Tuesday's events. Free agent big man Nene decided to return to Denver on a five-year, $65 million deal ($2 million in possible bonuses) rather than head to New Jersey. Although the Magic have been seriously considering filing tampering charges against the Nets in relation to an alleged Dec. 8 meeting in Miami between Howard and Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, that situation didn't preclude the talks from moving forward.
In evaluating a possible post-Howard landscape in Orlando, Magic general manager Otis Smith was attempting to achieve financial flexibility (Turkoglu and Duhon are owed a combined $44.75 million over the next three seasons) and find a new core to build around. Lopez has his detractors around the league, but the 7-foot, 265-pound big man averaged 20.4 points per game last season and would help the Magic replace their void in the middle. Wallace remains one of the game's most versatile and potent small forwards, having helped lead Portland to a strong finish last season after he was traded from Charlotte in February.
But the Magic are hardly moving toward being a salary cap-friendly team. They signed significant deals recently with guard Jason Richardson (four years, $25 million) and forward Glen Davis (four years, $26 million), and it's unclear which Magic officials were most in favor of this Howard deal. Two sources said it's widely known that Smith is not a huge fan of Lopez and that he was hoping to find a better deal elsewhere.
The Lakers are reportedly still in discussions for both Howard and New Orleans point guard Chris Paul (their first attempt to land Paul was rejected by the league), and their potential offer that could include forward Pau Gasol and center Andrew Bynum would appear to be significantly better than the one involving the Nets.
Howard requested a trade to New Jersey last week, and the Magic gave his agent, Dan Fegan, permission to speak with the Lakers, Mavericks and the Nets on Friday. One of the sources close to the situation said the Magic's initial plan was to focus everywhere but New Jersey in attempting to find a deal while continuing to investigate the possible tampering charges. Howard then surprised the masses on Monday by saying he was still open to staying in Orlando long-term, this coming just one day after he was highly critical of Smith in discussing his situation with the media.
The Nets had been on the lookout for a third team that could've provided additional assets for the Magic, according to two sources. An inquiry was made to Golden State recently in attempt to acquire guard Monta Ellis. And while it has long been known that Orlando wanted Turkoglu to be included in any possible deal for Howard, sources said dumping Duhon's contract (three years, a combined $10.7 million) has also been made a priority in talks with other teams.