A few weeks ago, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Dwight Howard would be traded before the start of the 2012-13 NBA Season.
Now, according to reports, the Magic are considering holding on to Howard for the foreseeable future.
People forget that he's Dwight Howard, said one source. We're talking about one of the best players in the league. We're not just going to give him away.
Orlando General Manager Rob Hennigan is reportedly trying to convince the center to stay with the team. Howard has one year left on his contract and the Magic could hold onto him and risk losing him in the offseason.
The Lakers looked to be the frontrunners to land the All-Star, but he may now be staying put for a while. Los Angeles and Orlando have discussed swapping Andrew Bynum and Howard. The Cavs and Rockets have also been discussed as possible facilitators in a deal. Either Cleveland or Houston would acquire Bynum in a potential trade, with draft picks and young players going to Orlando.
Multiple deals have been discussed with the Magic, but they have yet to pull the trigger. They are reluctant to let another star big man go. Shaquille O'Neal left for L.A. as a free agent in 1996.
Howard has made it clear that he doesn't want to re-sign with the Magic. Still, Orlando seems to be holding out hope that they can change the centers mind. The center opted-in to the final year of his contract before last season's trade deadline when he seemed determined to become a free agent this summer.
If Orlando holds onto Howard, they can offer him $20 million more than any other team. Even if he does decide to test the free agent market, his options will be limited. He won't be able to sign with the Nets or Lakers because they are over the salary cap.
Brooklyn is Howard's preferred destination and he would reportedly stay with L.A. long-term if he was traded there.
Teams like the Cavs, Rockets, and possibly the Mavericks could be in a position to sign Howard. He, however, hasn't given any indication that he wants to go to either of those teams.
The Magic could hold onto Howard heading into training camp, with the intention of moving him during the season. The Nets came close to acquiring Howard, but a possible deal came off the table when Brook Lopez signed a new contract with the team. Lopez would be the centerpiece of a deal between Brooklyn and Orlando, and he can't be traded until Jan. 15 because of his new deal.
Orlando's best option may just be to trade Howard as soon as possible. The offers they are receiving likely won't get much better and could even get worse as the 2012-13 season approaches.