Report: Howard was almost a Laker
When Nets brass called it a day March 14, the eve of the NBA trading deadline, they did so believing they had a deal with the Magic for Dwight Howard in place. Yes, Howard almost became a Net.
But he also was on the verge of becoming a Laker if the Magic hierarchy had gone through with its threat of playing hardball with the indecisive superstar center.
According to league sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Orlando brass got fed up with Howard's yes-no-maybe posturing and threatened to trade him to the Lakers, not his desired location, if he did not sign an agreement to waive the opt-out clause for the final season of his contract.
Howard eventually signed the papers, but only after he was told "he would be a Laker by the end of the day," according to one source.
While both sides proclaimed loyalty as a factor in Howard's decision to stay in Orlando, the contentious nature of the process gives the Nets ample hope they still may open in Brooklyn next season with Howard on their side.
"[The Magic] do not want to go through it all again," according to one source who claimed Orlando wants a commitment from Howard on an extension before training camp to avoid his bolting as a free agent in 2013. "[The Magic] are determined to avoid another year of that."
By opting in for the final year at $18,091,770, Howard is bound to Orlando only through next season. Now come renewed reports Howard wants Stan Van Gundy out as coach for there to be any chance he will remain in Orlando, and Van Gundy said Thursday that Howard wants him fired.
Howard, whose camp had permission to talk to the Nets, Mavericks and Lakers, really only had one destination.
"He was adamant: New Jersey, New Jersey, New Jersey," a source claimed.
Which would explain the confidence about landing Howard among the Nets, who play the Wizards in Newark on Friday night following a 2-2 West Coast trip. When their bid to get Howard dissolved in the final hours of the NBA trade deadline, they moved to contingency plans, including trading for Gerald Wallace. Other plans include pursuing Boston's Kevin Garnett in free agency.
But the Nets thought Plan A — which at the end was Howard for Brook Lopez, MarShon Brooks, Mehmet Okur and two first-round picks — would occur.
Howard — who has sent confounding mixed signals all season, first saying he would not opt in, then saying he would — brought the confusion to another level before the deadline.
He told teammates he was "all-in" for this season, then said next season, too. Great, thought Magic brass. Let's get it in writing. But Howard, via a conference call, told Magic executives he would not sign an opt-in pact.
The Magic and Nets seemed poised to deal. After the game, Howard did another about face. Yes, he would sign, he told the Real GM website. The Magic, though, had heard enough. They told him if he did not sign the agreement by noon, he would be traded to the Lakers.
Before the deadline, Howard also went with two teammates, to, of all places, a Waffle House. He sat seeking advice and called his parents and friends.
Orlando played its trump card. Sources for months maintained Howard wanted no part of the Lakers, that he did not want to follow the legacy of Shaquille O'Neal. Orlando leaders had one other reason for the threat: They favored the Lakers' package of Andrew Bynum, Devin Ebanks and Steve Blake over the Nets' offer.
Howard, of course, signed and everyone spoke of loyalty, which would have been better served had he signed long term. So the Magic have the game's most dominant center locked up, until the nonsense starts again.