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Hornets still shopping Kaman; Magic brass at odds over Howard

"What do I have, eight days until the trade deadline?" Hornets center Chris Kaman said Wednesday. "Eight more days and then the deadline is done? Is it on the 12th or the 15th? I'm not sure. For me, I can't control it so I don't care."

Don't believe that last part, though.

No one seeks stability more than Kaman, the nine-year veteran who was traded from the Clippers as part of the Chris Paul deal on Dec. 14. The open arms that welcomed him in New Orleans only lasted until Jan. 27, when Kaman -- who is making $14 million in the final year of his contract -- was asked to leave the team while the NBA-owned Hornets tried to trade him.

The deactivated and despondent Kaman was left to go it alone, working out in the Hornets' facility only when his teammates weren't around and staying home with his wife when the team was on road trips. But six games into his exile, Kaman unexpectedly returned after New Orleans lost power forwards Carl Landry (sprained knee) and Jason Smith (concussion). He's been auditioning ever since -- for the Hornets and the rest of the league.

In 14 games since his return on Feb. 6, Kaman -- an All-Star in 2010 who played just 32 games last season and 31 games in 2008-09 because of left-foot injuries -- has averaged 16.1 points and 9.8 rebounds while shooting just 39.7 percent from the field and taking 16.7 shots.

"It's been tough, man," Kaman told during New Orleans' visit to Sacramento. "It's a real unprecedented situation for me. I didn't know how to handle it all the time, just try to be as cool as I could be about it. But as bitter, mad, upset or frustrated as you are, you've got to be a professional and come in and do your job. That's what I kept telling myself.

"But now, getting the opportunity to play and just try to do what I can do and help the team the best I can, I think I've shown what I can do enough to where they trust me a little bit more."

Sources close to the situation said the Hornets continue to talk to teams about a possible Kaman trade, with the Rockets, Warriors, Heat, Pacers and Celtics among those still interested. The Hornets, sources said, are looking for draft picks or young players to help build their foundation, and the odds appear slim that any of the teams will satisfy the league's demands. The Rockets and Warriors, specifically, continue to pursue Howard and would be hesitant to give up pieces in a Kaman deal first.

Rival executives continue to complain that dealing with the Hornets comes with the complication of negotiating with league officials. NBA commissioner/de facto Hornets owner David Stern had said that a deal with a new owner was expected to be finalized by March 1, but it has yet to happen and Stern must approve all trades until the buyer is in place.

Meanwhile, sources said the Hornets are considering offering the 29-year-old Kaman an extension if no trade occurs, as they are intrigued about the possibility of pairing him with shooting guard Eric Gordon, a former Clippers teammate. Gordon, who played just two games for New Orleans before a knee injury cost him this season, will be a restricted free agent this summer.

Asked if he wanted to be traded from the 9-30 Hornets, Kaman said, "No, I like the opportunity I've been given. ... I like New Orleans. I like the fans. I like the city. I've had a -- so far -- great time there. It's tough. The season has been unpredictable. I wasn't sure what to expect coming in, how good we'd be, what we'd be doing. No one knew Eric was going to get hurt, Trevor [Ariza], all these guys getting hurt. So for me, I just try to come in and do my job and not think about all that stuff."

As next Thursday's deadline nears, the Hornets are expected to be active beyond Kaman's situation. With veterans like Landry and Ariza more than capable of helping a team during its playoff push, sources said virtually anyone on the roster is available as long as they can net draft picks or young players in return.

The Howard saga will finally unfold in the coming week, and much will be revealed about the complicated inner workings of the Magic.

While Nuggets executive Masai Ujiri was the clear point man in the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes last season, Magic general manager Otis Smith has not been afforded the same luxury. Owner Rich DeVos and new CEO Alex Martins are playing significant roles as well, and it has been clear throughout the process that their views differ from Smith's when it comes to the price tag for Howard or the priorities in a trade package.

Exhibit A: the New Jersey Nets' offer. Smith has told associates for months that he doesn't see center Brook Lopez as a worthy centerpiece of a deal for Howard, meaning Nets general manager Billy King would need to find a three- or four-team deal to land him. But Lopez -- who is out for three weeks, and perhaps longer, with an ankle injury -- remained in the discussion nonetheless, presumably because Smith's view was not shared.

Yet for all the focus on Howard's preferred list of destinations -- New Jersey, Dallas and the Lakers -- Smith has always been focused on landing the best deal, no matter the team. That means, of course, that teams like the Rockets and Warriors -- clubs willing to "rent" Howard for the remainder of the season despite not knowing if he would re-sign as a free agent this summer or play out the final season of his deal (an option worth $19.5 million) -- might still be in the running. The Bulls have been quietly deliberating a Howard move all season while hoping he adds them to his list, but his unwillingness to do so would certainly take them out of the mix.

Meanwhile, Howard picked a convenient time to dominate the Bulls with 29 points, 18 rebounds and three blocks in Orlando's 99-94 win at Chicago on Thursday. Atlanta could also be a possibility now that forward Josh Smith reportedly wants to be traded, though it's unknown how Howard would see that option.

Unfortunately for the Warriors, sources said Otis Smith has yet to show serious interest in anyone on their roster. It's not known how the Magic view the Rockets' roster.

"Unless something changes and they get a great offer, they're going to keep him," one source close to Smith said.

The Magic's best deal, of course, is the one where they hold on to Howard through the deadline and he shocks the basketball world by staying.