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Lakers in talks to acquire Howard as part of four-team trade


After more than two weeks of welcome silence in the saga widely known as the Dwightmare, another Dwight Howard trade scenario being discussed was revealed Thursday.

A source close to the situation confirmed a Yahoo! Sports report that Orlando is in talks with the Lakers, 76ers and Nuggets about a potential trade that would send Howard to Los Angeles. The deal, which is not believed to be imminent, would reportedly send Howard and Nuggets forward Al Harrington to the Lakers, L.A. center Andrew Bynum to the Sixers and Lakers power forward Pau Gasol and Nuggets shooting guard Arron Afflalo to the Magic, who would get salary cap relief and draft picks. Magic shooting guard guard Jason Richardson would also likely be part of the deal.

Last we heard from Howard, he was meeting with new Orlando GM Rob Hennigan in Los Angeles and -- despite the Magic's coaching and front office changes -- reiterating his desire to be traded. That was 15 days ago, a relative eternity for a story that began at the outset of last season and has done so much damage to the image of the once-beloved young star.

The latest delay in this inevitable divorce can't be blamed on Howard, as the Magic continue to weigh all options and are determined -- as team officials have said on countless occasions -- to do what is in the best interest of the organization. Orlando has engaged in extensive talks with Houston that remain alive as well, and a source with knowledge of the Rockets' latest proposal said it would afford the Magic more assets to their liking than the potential four-team trade.

With Orlando looking to clear salary cap space and rebuild via the draft, some have surmised that, if the four-team deal goes through, the Magic could trade Gasol for younger prospects or more draft picks at a later time. But given the current NBA landscape, with the new collective bargaining agreement and the devastating luxury tax set to kick in after next season, the interest in a 32-year-old forward with a combined $38 million on his deal for the next two seasons will likely be limited, if only because of the immense payroll implications.

In an interview with on Tuesday, Orlando CEO Alex Martins made it clear that the Magic know what they want in return for Howard and will remain patient until they receive it.

"We have very specific goals as to what we would hope to achieve if we were to trade Dwight, OK?" said Martins, who recently replaced general manager Otis Smith with former Oklahoma City and San Antonio executive Rob Hennigan and coach Stan Van Gundy with former Spurs assistant Jacque Vaughn. "We acknowledge and are realistic about the fact that you're never going to get equal value in return for Dwight Howard. But if we were to trade him, we have three primary goals that we're trying to achieve and in the end, any deal that's proposed to us I think we've been very clear about the fact about the goals of what we're trying to achieve.

"We have never delineated from that. Some may think that we have, but we have not. Clearly, when we find the right combination of pieces that we're looking for in return, that will determine whether we make a deal or not."

Asked about the current state of trade talks, Martins said, "We continue to have discussions around the league with teams that are interested in being part of a potential transaction with Dwight. And at the end of the day, we've remained consistent and will remain consistent that we're going to do what's in the best interests of our organization in making a decision and making a potential deal. When that timeframe presents itself, then we'll make that decision. But we're not going to allow others to dictate our time frame in making this decision because there's no reason for us to do that."

Though it seems unfathomable that the Magic could enter training camp with Howard, Martins wouldn't discount the possibility.

"We're just going to base the decision on what's in the best interests of the organization long term, and when we get to that bridge we'll cross it," he said.

While it is not yet known if the Sixers would be willing to take Bynum without any assurances that he would either sign an extension or re-sign when he becomes a free agent next summer, Bynum's agent, David Lee, told on Thursday that he had not had any such discussions with Philadelphia or any other team. If talks were to advance to the point of being imminent, it has long been believed that Bynum's camp would have to be consulted in order to gain clarity on that front. Several other agents whose clients were reportedly involved in the talks told that they were unaware of the possible scenario as well.

Howard, whose previous indecisiveness and role in this absurd drama has drawn so much scorn, has done little to improve his tattered image this week. After he reportedly delayed his annual kids camp in Orlando from early July to Aug. 13-14, it was announced that Howard would continue to rehabilitate his surgically repaired back in Los Angeles rather than attend the camp.

Predictable backlash ensued, not because Howard shouldn't continue to rehab from his April 20 procedure, but because -- as the Orlando Sentinel reported -- he had recently mustered the energy to attend Los Angeles Dodgers games and an adidas Nations basketball tournament in Southern California. The campers can get their money back if they so please.

It's a polar opposite situation for the Magic, however, as the franchise would rather not have a disgruntled Howard on hand when their camp begins. But Orlando is also well aware that there are no refunds in this trade game. So it is, then, that the Dwightmare continues.