Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard's favored destination to play somewhere else remains the New Jersey Nets, with the Los Angeles Lakers probably having dropped off, according to Sports Illustrated.
The Lakers, Nets and Dallas Mavericks are all on the seven-footer's preferred destinations on his trade wish list, but the Nets may offer Howard not only the ability to build his own international brand in Brooklyn, but also the chance to play in a newly built Barclay's Center there and take advantage of off-court opportunities in the New York City market.
If traded to the Nets, Howard would probably change the team's on-court and off-court culture as the franchise player. (Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi)
The Lakers, on the other hand, would offer Howard the chance to play in another big market, but signs indicate that he won't be coming aboard anytime soon.
The Magic have already reportedly rejected a trade for Howard that involved Lakers center Andrew Bynum, according to Peter Vecsey of the New York Post. It has long been thought that in the event a trade for Howard, the Lakers would have to revolve a package around Bynum, but maybe regretfully include more valuable pieces such as forward Pau Gasol to make the deal truly enticing.
And now, close friends of Howard tell Sports Illustrated that he was informed that Lakers guard Kobe Bryant sees him as a second or third option on a championship-caliber team if he came to Los Angeles. That, in turn, concerned the Lakers' owners, the Buss family, who, at the same time, remain hopeful that Howard can still be convinced to come to the Lakers and be the franchise player.
If Howard were to be traded to the Nets before the March 15 deadline, center Brook Lopez would most likely be the centerpiece on the Nets side, but after having missed the first 31 games this season after breaking a bone in his right foot, Magic general manager Otis Smith might have second thoughts. Plus, he may not be established or young enough to take a chance on. Still, Smith might understand the small pool of talented big men this day and age, which might actually force him to settle on acquiring Lopez.
Howard could also sign with the Nets in free agency this or next summer. But that means Orlando would be letting a premier player walk away for nothing in return.
The same thing goes for the Mavericks. Howard can sign with them this or next summer, and Orlando would be letting him walk if they don't trade him there. But a trade would have to wait until next season because Dallas lacks the valuable pieces to include in a deal during the next few weeks.
Of course, Howard signing elsewhere via free agency in 2012 or 2013 is contingent on his being convinced Orlando is the place to be until that point comes. But, at the same time, as alluring as the Nets look, that point may never come.