The Brooklyn Nets are moving forward without Dwight Howard after failing to complete a trade with the Orlando Magic on Wednesday.
With talks to bring the three-time Defensive Player of the Year to Brooklyn stalled, the Nets reached a four-year, $60.8 million deal with restricted free agent center Brook Lopez. By signing with the Nets on Wednesday night, Lopez won't be eligible to be traded until Jan. 15. The 24-year-old Lopez has been a key piece in Brooklyn's proposals for Howard.
Because Howard is widely expected to be traded sooner rather than later, the Nets' signing of Lopez could bring an end to their extended pursuit of the Magic's six-time All-Star. The Rockets, Hawks and Lakers are among the other teams that have spoken with Orlando about Howard, who is entering the last year of his contract.
Magic general manager Rob Hennigan on Wednesday afternoon described as "stationary" Orlando's trade discussions with the Nets, the team to which Howard wants to be dealt. "As currently constructed, there's not much there," Hennigan said at a news conference in Orlando.
Sources said earlier Wednesday that the Nets were ready to abandon their pursuit of Howard if they couldn't strike a deal with the Magic by the end of the day. The Nets made it clear that they needed closure on Wednesday, the first day that Lopez could sign an offer sheet with another team, or they would be forced to table discussions for several months, until players who signed as free agents this summer can be traded.
Despite the Nets' position, sources said the Magic signaled that they weren't about to succumb to the external pressure just to accept what they viewed as an unfavorable trade. There were strong signs that the Magic would simply let the Nets fall out of contention for the 26-year-old Howard. "I don't think that there is a deal there," one source with knowledge of Orlando's stance said.
The Rockets have been attempting to put together a package that would offer the Magic a combination of draft picks, young players and salary-cap relief. Sources said Houston was still shopping for more expiring contracts on Tuesday, calling teams with salary-cap room and offering power forward Luis Scola (three years, up to $30.7 million remaining) as a possible way of helping the Magic create even more financial flexibility in a Howard trade with the Rockets.