The NBA trade deadline is two months away, but time may be running out on a blockbuster trade involving the Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic.
The two teams met on Friday night in Orlando with the Magic holding off the Lakers, 92-80.
The game was marked by speculation that Dwight Howard might be dealt to the Lakers. Howard, who finished the night with 21 points and 23 rebounds in 46 minutes, remains on the fence about re-signing with Orlando, and has had his eye on playing with Kobe Bryant.
Orlando would certainly expect Andrew Bynum in exchange for Howard, but it is uncertain if the Magic would want more and if the Lakers would be willing to unload more in exchange for their promising big man.
(Just to note: Bynum finished Friday's game with just 10 points and 12 rebounds in 26 minutes, as the young center had to sit due to foul trouble.)
A straight up Howard-for-Bynum swap fits with salary-cap restrictions, and the Lakers could offer draft picks, as well.
Bynum, 24, is having one of his best seasons. He went into Friday night's game averaging 16.3 points per game, and 13.8 rebounds, which are both career highs, but his shooting percentages from the field and from the free throw have declined.
Howard, 26, is having a typical season. His numbers going into the game against the Lakers were similar to recent seasons: 20.1 points per game, 15.6 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks, while shooting 58.7 percent from the field.
The main issue with the impending free agent is that he wants to win a title, and apparently doesn't feel it can happen with the Magic's current roster.
Howard reportedly had interest in being dealt to the New Jersey Nets and the Los Angeles Clippers, but neither team has the trade bait that Orlando is willing to accept. The Bulls might be another option, but Chicago would have to gut all of the key parts of their team, without giving up Derrick Rose, in order for the Magic to accept the deal, and the Bulls would likely pass on that.
Orlando, more than likely, will have to make a deal during the season. They were left holding the bag in the summer of 1996 when they lost Shaquille O'Neal, and if it happens again the organization will be completely demoralized.
So that leaves the Lakers.
While Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak may very well want to acquire Howard, the Magic don't want to send to him the Lakers. Meanwhile, the Lakers like what they have in Bynum, and he is a favorite of Jim Buss, the son of owner Jerry Buss. Jim Buss has taken on more of a role in the basketball operations with the organization, according to sources.
However, the Lakers are struggling at the moment and with Kobe turning 34 in August, the team that desperately wants to win titles has to make a decision soon on bolstering their starting lineup.
It seems there is a better chance that the deal would go through than not go through, at this point. There may have to be a strong shake up with other teams for the Magic to find a better offer than Bynum, and possible draft picks.
Indeed, both the Lakers and the Magic are running out of options.