After weeks of speculation that Dwight Howard would be traded before the start of training camp, it appears that the center might not be leaving Orlando any time soon.
Magic General Manager Rob Hennigan met with Howard on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of him staying with the team beyond the upcoming season. Howard asked to be traded at the start of the offseason and did not back off of his request.
Despite his desire to be dealt, the Magic have been unwilling to pull the trigger on a trade. The Lakers and Nets have been after the center, while the Rockets have also been in trade talks with the Magic.
Orlando essentially knows what each team is willing to part with for a chance to land the superstar.
Brooklyn is willing to trade a package including Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries and Marshon Brooks. They're also willing to take on Jason Richardson, who Orlando has been looking to move. A trade cannot be completed until Jan. 15, however, because Lopez recently signed a new contract.
Howard has made it known that Brooklyn is his preferred destination.
Los Angeles is prepared to give up Andrew Bynum, but doesn't want to take back one of Orlando's bad contracts. A team like the Cavaliers might have to be involved to make a deal work. The Magic would rather receive draft picks and cap relief than Bynum, so either Houston or Cleveland would have to acquire the Lakers big man.
Knowing what each team is willing to part with, should the Magic make a deal now or wait until the regular season begins?
There's a chance that the offers will only get worse if Orlando waits any longer. The rest of the NBA knows that they have to trade Howard. He's made it clear that he won't re-sign with the Magic when he becomes a free agent, and Orlando wants to make sure they don't lose their best player for nothing. They learned their lesson when Shaquille O'Neal walked away from them in 1996.
As the trade deadline approaches, teams might lower their offers, hoping to catch an organization desperate enough to make a bad deal. At some point, the Magic are going to have to take the best available offer, whether or not it's close to equal value.
Los Angeles wants to trade for Howard, but they don't necessarily need him. Bynum is the second best center in the NBA and they could sign him to a long-term contract. With L.A.'s acquisition of Steve Nash, the team could get off to a hot start and decide it's not worth it to make any moves.
The same is less likely to happen to Brooklyn, but they could lessen their offer if they realize they are the only team will a realistic shot of landing the All-Star.
While waiting could backfire on Orlando, it's possible that it could work in their favor. The Magic still have time to decide what they want to do and a lot can change it a few months.
The only way the Lakers or Nets can acquire Howard is through a trade. Neither team will have enough money under the salary cap to sign him as a free agent. While Orlando might be desperate to move him in a few months, L.A. and Brooklyn could be just as desperate to acquire him.
The Knicks were in a similar position during the 2010-11 NBA Season. They wanted free agent-to-be Carmelo Anthony, but couldn't offer him a max contract in the offseason. For fear of another team signing him in the summer, New York traded most of their assets to Denver for Anthony.
It's possible that the Lakers and Nets will improve their offers, just like the Knicks did.
It's unclear when Howard will be traded. The only thing that is clear is he won't be wearing a Magic uniform after the 2012-13 Season.