With Brook Lopez expected to miss several four-to-six weeks, the Orlando Magic were dealt a blow in trade negotiations for Dwight Howard.
The Magic have considered a deal with the Nets in the off-season, and Lopez has been the centerpiece of a possible trade. The injury to Lopez may mean that he won't be at full strength when he returns, thus weakening his trade value.
It definitely hurts, said Marc Stein, of ESPN. It's unquestionably a blow to the Nets chances.
Howard, who is a free agent at the end of the season, is not keen on staying in Orlando, according to reports, and has privately named teams he would like to sign with should the Magic deal him. The Nets and the Lakers were considered the two frontrunners.
The Magic certainly want to avoid sending Howard to the Lakers. Orlando lost superstar center Shaquille O'Neal to the Lakers as a free agent in 1996. Losing O'Neal was devastating for the organization, and a boon for the Lakers, who went on to win three championships.
At the moment, the Lakers may have the best trade bait available in center Andrew Bynum. The 24-year-old center reportedly had a productive offseason, and is not feeling the effects of past knee problems.
Though the Lakers remain bullish on Bynum, the club may need a shakeup. The Clippers were able to acquire Chris Paul while the Lakers were left holding the bag earlier this month, and there appears to be a lack of optimism for the purple and gold at the moment. The Lakers' roster appears to have holes in it, particularly with bench scoring, and might be too reliant on Kobe Bryant.
Both team may have no choice but to negotiate. The Lakers would prefer to not give up more pieces along with Bynum to land Howard. Pau Gasol has been frequently mentioned in trade rumors, and the Lakers may feel that both Bynum and Gasol are too much to give up for Howard.
The trade deadline is in March, and the Magic may want to hold on to Howard until then to see how Lopez progresses, and to observe how the shortened season plays out. Orlando might be banking on the idea that the team over-achieves and Howard has a change of heart.
Other teams in the possible hunt for Howard, include the Bulls and the Mavericks. However, both clubs are in title contenders this season, and may not want to disrupt team chemistry.