Mavericks, Magic visit about Howard trade

DALLAS — Mavs GM Donnie Nelson and Magic GM Orlando GM Rob Hennigan visited last week about a Dwight Howard trade and “will probably talk again,” Nelson tells Meanwhile, Dwight and the Magic seem done visiting. Does this move Dwight-to-Dallas closer to the front burner? Or is is simply a step towards Dallas becoming the favorite to sign the disgruntled superstar center next summer?

The Magic’s dealings with Dwight Howard continue to swirl downward, with various outlets reporting that last week he reiterated to management his desire to escape Orlando.

And the Dallas Mavericks are in position to accommodate him. Sometime.

But while Howard has allegedly been assured by some inside the Orlando organization that his wish will be granted — with the Nets, Lakers and Mavs topping his wishlist — the Magic are wisely showing no urgency to make a bad deal.

And in their minds, offers from the Nets and Lakers — offers that went very public and therefore were portrayed as “close” — were also “bad.”

Meanwhile, 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.

Nelson suggests that there are offers on the table for Dwight that “trump” what Dallas can present now or in the near future, which includes expiring contracts, the promise of cap space, and maybe the willingness to take back contract ballast.

An NBA source tells that Orlando believes its offer from the Lakers is the superior one (it can involve Andrew Bynum). But if it was sufficient enough, Orlando would be pulling the trigger. Instead, it continues to attempt to work with Dwight, who is a free agent next summer and clearly now has little intention of re-signing with the Magic.

It’s also clear that Howard has no intention of making any long-term commitment to any team (even if he’s traded), instead preferring to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. What the Mavs wish for now — and while they don’t say this on the record they can barely contain their glee at the possibility — is …

a) That Dwight remain in Orlando all year. Orlando is the only team capable of giving him a five-year deal worth approximately $100 million. Other suitors next summer will be able to only offer four … and the Nets and Lakers won’t have the cap room to do it.

If Dwight stays with Orlando all year, the Mavs become heavy, heavy favorites next summer to win his rights.

b) That Dwight gets dealt to Houston. Again, the Lakers and Nets would be out of the running. The suitors would be Houston (which could give him the five years but which also is not a desired destination) and Dallas (which would give four years and be back into the same pitch mode as was the case with Deron).

The Mavs’ entire organizational plan — Plan Powder — is designed for such a signing. Dallas will be the rare contender with cap room for an outright signing and might also have the ability to give assets to Orlando in a sign-and-trade.

Yahoo reports that Orlando wants a “knockout package” for Dwight. That obviously hasn’t happened yet. Yahoo also writes, “Howard’s camp has consistently warned Houston not to trade for him, that he’d march right into Dallas’ cap space next summer.”

A source close to the situation tells us, “You hope he stays in Orlando, or as an alternative, goes to Houston and doesn’t like it there.”

So Dallas can be a favorite to get Dwight Howard, but it’s not “front-burner” in the sense that it’s so unlikely to happen anytime soon. For Mavs fans, it’s about rooting against a trade to Nets or Lakers. It’s about enjoying the season ahead. And it’s about the anticipation of two plans coming together:

Howard’s plan is to escape now to the Nets, Lakers or Mavs. Donnie Nelson’s own admission says the “now” isn’t happening for Dallas.

Meanwhile, the Mavs’ plan is to hope he doesn’t escape Orlando prematurely so he can be accommodated in Dallas in the summer of 2013.