You've probably heard enough Dwight Howard rumors this summer to make your head spin, so it's understandable why common sense has fallen by the wayside when it comes to discussing the Orlando Magic's disgruntled center.
Here are the facts, though: if Howard gets traded during this offseason, he'll go to either the Los Angeles Lakers or Dallas Mavericks. If he doesn't get traded during this offseason (but gets traded before the end of the year), he'll go to the Brooklyn Nets.
End. Of. Story.
Forget all of the rumors that were floating around regarding the Houston Rockets or Atlanta Hawks being on the Magic's radar as potential trade partners; stop perpetuating the myth that staying in Orlando is a feasible option.
None of that is going to happen. The choices as far as how this horrible NBA-love-story-gone-wrong can and will end are very limited.
Because the Nets signed Brook Lopez to a massive new deal this summer, they can't trade him until this January. If Orlando doesn't mind starting this year with a media firestorm surrounding their entire squad for the first three months, then they can wait for Brooklyn to deal Lopez and Kris Humphries to them in exchange for Howard and a ton of bad contracts.
That's the deal that was always on the table and, while we don't have any confirmation of this, it appears as though that's the deal Orlando brass favors right now.
If Magic GM Rob Hennigan decides that he can't start next year with a guy who one week ago reportedly gave him a pretty brutal ultimatum, then he has to make a trade within the next month or so.
The only real options, again, are the Lakers and Mavericks.
Here are two recent reports that sort of downplay either team's chances of landing Howard, but also acknowledge that they're in the discussion.
FOXSportsSouthwest.com has learned that Nelson and Hennigan visited last week about a Dwight Howard trade. But ...
"There's just not much there (in terms of a Mavs-Magic trade to be done in 2012),'' Nelson tells us.
Via ESPN (from 7/26):
The Lakers' position on Howard has remained relatively unchanged for the past few months, league sources familiar with the situation have told ESPNLosAngeles.com. The Lakers always have been willing to trade for Howard without assurances he'd re-sign with them after the season, believing that once Howard experienced a championship culture, he would want to stay.
However, the Lakers also remain unwilling to take back burdensome contracts from Orlando that would subject them to the most punitive luxury-tax penalties under the new collective bargaining agreement, according to sources.
Every deal will always be referred to as unlikely from here on out, but that's only because every potential trade up to this point has fallen apart. The fact of the matter is, though, that regardless of how much stock you put into these talks, it's becoming increasingly apparent that you're seeing the same teams being mentioned over and over again. The Lakers, Mavericks or Nets - if a trade happens, it happens with one of those three teams.
Not the Hawks. Not the Rockets. Not the Oklahoma City Thunder (where did that ludicrous rumor even originate?).
If it happens this summer, Howard lands in Los Angeles or Dallas. If it happens in January, he's headed to Brooklyn.
Anyone who tells you that any other team has a shot - ignore them and don't get your hopes up.