Tag:Mavericks
Posted on: March 9, 2012 12:10 am
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Magic want Melo-like haul for Howard

Magic executives have continued to tell teams this week they do not intend to trade Dwight Howard, but several teams came away from the conversations with a clear picture of what the club wants if it changes course: a replica of the deal Denver pulled off last February for Carmelo Anthony, multiple league sources told CBSSports.com Thursday.

If the Magic decide to trade Howard, they have “not closed any doors” on potential suitors, said a person familiar with the organization’s strategy. Teams that are on and off Howard’s list of preferred destinations – the Nets, Mavericks and Lakers – will be considered, and may the highest bidder win, sources said.

What Orlando is seeking if it makes a deal for the All-Star center is a package similar to what the Nuggets received for Anthony at the 2011 trade deadline: multiple good, young players and draft picks. Orlando executives view the Denver model as a middle ground between blowing up a contender and starting over with draft picks and reaching for veteran All-Stars whose contracts ultimately could hinder the recovery from a Howard trade.

Representatives of three teams in the mix for Howard – either on his list or among teams willing to gamble on trading for him in the hopes that he can be persuaded to stay beyond this season – told CBSSports.com Thursday that the Magic have not decided which path to pursue. Howard, 26, can opt out of his $19.5 million contract after the season and become an unrestricted free agent. His formal trade request through agent Dan Fegan of Lagadere Unlimited remains on the table and he has not given the Magic any commitment to opt in and/or re-sign after the season.

In a complicated, three-team trade for Anthony that was consummated after a five-month marathon over his desire to join the Knicks, the Nuggets came away with a treasure trove of young talent and draft picks: Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and 7-footer Timofey Mozgov plus a future first-round pick and two future second-round picks. Felton has since been dealt to Portland for Andre Miller. The Nuggets recently signed Gallinari to a four-year, $42 million extension (about half what Anthony makes over the same period), and are hoping to get Chandler, a potential 20-point scorer, back after a stint in China before the season is over.

The Nuggets also received another 7-footer, Kosta Koufos, from Minnesota, which made the trade work under league cap rules by taking Eddy Curry and Anthony Randolph from the Knicks along with a second-round pick from Denver.

For a variety of reasons, a similar haul isn’t realistic for Howard, despite the fact that he’s a far more valuable star than Anthony. The Knicks also got former All-Star Chauncey Billups in the deal, and the Nuggets were able to parlay interest from the Knicks, Nets and other teams Anthony had no intention of extending his contract with into a bidding war that drove the price for him through the roof.

If a player is heading out of Orlando with Howard, it is likely to be Hedo Turkoglu. Unlike Billups – a productive veteran leader with one year left on his contract – Turkuglo will be a liability in the deal due to his declining skills and the $23.4 million he is owed over the next two seasons.

Nonetheless, the revelation that Orlando wants similar assets as those Denver received for Anthony moved the needle on the Howard saga with only a week to go before the March 15 trade deadline. If the Magic decide not to trade Howard by next Thursday, they face the prospect of losing him as a free agent and receiving no assets in return.

The Mavericks and Lakers, teams loaded with high-priced veterans, do not have the kind of assets the Magic want for Howard. The Nets, with 24-year-old 7-footer Brook Lopez and promising rookie guard MarShon Brooks, come closer – though two people familiar with the Orlando strategy told CBSSports.com Thursday that none of the three teams has assets that would entice the Magic to part with Howard. Perhaps this is why Orlando officials have been more forthcoming in recent days about what they’d want in a package for Howard, and why at least one rival GM interpreted this shift in posture as an indication that Orlando understands it needs to create competition and prime the pump on the bidding war.

With the Magic determined to trade Howard to the team with the best offer if they decide to move him, a deal sending Howard to a so-called “rental” team (i.e., one he will refuse to give a long-term commitment to as part of the trade) could play right into the Nets’ hands. If, for example, Orlando traded Howard to Golden State and Howard opted out after the season, the Nets would be in a position to sign him as an unrestricted free agent without giving up any players or draft picks.

The other team aggressively trying to maneuver for a shot at acquiring Howard and persuading him to sign this summer is the Rockets, who need a replacement for retired center Yao Ming and who are still recovering from the voided Chris Paul trade that would’ve landed Pau Gasol from the Lakers. But a more serious contender could emerge in the coming days: the Hawks, who are dealing with disgruntled should-be All-Star Josh Smith’s own reported trade request. Smith and Al Horford would represent a coup for the Magic considering the alternative of losing Howard for nothing, and Atlanta is Howard’s hometown, where he attended Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy. Even with the potential of getting – and keeping – a player of Howard’s popularity and impact, questions remain about whether the Atlanta ownership group would be able to afford two max players going forward. Joe Johnson is owed $90 million over the next four years.

If nothing else, Howard’s familiarity with Atlanta would diminish the biggest impediment for another potential rental team giving up major assets to get him: Aside from it being an untenable gamble in a normal season, it’s even more so in this one. If, for example, Howard were traded against his will to Golden State, he’d play only 26 games with his new team – and only 12 home games in his new surroundings.

“That’s not a lot of games to get attached to Golden State,” one rival executive said.

Could the Warriors possibly give up Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Ekpe Udoh, etc., under those circumstances? The Magic hope so, which is why the Howard saga quietly escalated to the next phase Thursday: Orlando’s attempt to follow the Denver model by creating a bidding war and scoring a Melo-like haul of assets.

So from now until 3 p.m. on March 15, the Dwight Howard story is open for business, 24 hours a day.
Posted on: March 5, 2012 4:05 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2012 4:22 pm
 

Nets' Lopez to miss 3 weeks with ankle sprain

The Nets got a rare dose of positive injury news Monday when X-rays on center Brook Lopez's right ankle were negative. The key piece of a potential trade with Orlando for All-Star Dwight Howard will be in a walking boot for what the team described as a precaution and will miss three weeks.

Though that puts Lopez on the shelf until after the March 15 trade deadline, team officials privately were expecting worse. Lopez was injured Sunday night during Deron Williams' 57-point game in Charlotte and left the arena on crutches.

Lopez missed the Nets' first 32 games with a broken right foot, putting a damper on trade discussions between New Jersey and Orlando. The Magic have been telling teams over the past month that they intend to keep Howard beyond the trade deadline, but rival executives are dubious. Howard has not publicly or privately given any indication that he wants to stay with the Magic beyond this season, and Orlando could lose him as an unrestricted free agent without getting any assets in return under new collectively bargained guidelines governing sign-and-trades.

Howard's list of preferred destinations has not changed since the summer, and it includes the Nets, Mavericks and Lakers. New Jersey and Dallas will have the cap room to offer Howard a four-year, $81 million deal after Howard opts out July 1. If he stayed in Orlando, Howard would get an extra year and 7.5 percent annual raises -- as opposed to the four-year deal and 4.5 percent raises he'd get by leaving. Barring injury, the difference isn't as dramatic as it seems, since Howard, 26, would make most of it up on his next contract. He'd do even better in Texas, where there is no state income tax.

The Nets, who can offer Howard the allure of Williams' star power and their impending move to Brooklyn, continue to be the front runners for Howard if the Magic decide to trade him. Rival executives believe the Magic would be foolish to misread Howard's desire to change teams this summer, and the Nets have the roster and cap flexibility to provide Orlando with the assets they'd need to rebuild.

Meanwhile, sources say serious trade discussions league-wide are on hold while teams await a verdict from Orlando on Howard.

"That has to drop before anything else does," one rival executive said Monday. 
Posted on: February 19, 2012 6:54 pm
 

Cuban would support Seattle return

NEW YORK -- Mark Cuban always holds court with the media when his Mavericks make their annual visit to Madison Square Garden. On Sunday, he said he'd support Seattle's efforts to return to the NBA.

"As long as it’s not an expansion team, yes," Cuban said. "... I voted against the move because I thought it was wrong to leave Seattle. I’d be all for a team going back to Seattle. But it would have to be a team that moves. I’d be against any type of expansion."

Plans for a $490 million arena aimed at attracting an NBA and NHL team to Seattle were unveiled this week, with a $290 million commitment from investors led by Seattle native and hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen. The balance of the funds would come from tax revenues generated by the building and rent paid by the teams, according to the plan.

But with the NBA already in a state of overexpansion, the irony for Seattle is that its path back to the NBA would have to entail doing what Oklahoma City did to Seattle in 2008: luring a team from somewhere else. The likely suspects are Sacramento and New Orleans, where both NBA teams are facing uncertain arena situations.

"Teams go in cycles," Cuban said. "When you're at the top of the cycle, like Sacramento when they were winning, they were selling out every game and it was one of the hardest places to play. But it’s really how the market supports the team when you suck."

A vote by the Sacramento City Council is expected by the end of the month on a funding plan for a new downtown arena for the Kings. Sources say the NBA has narrowed its list of potential buyers for the league-owned Hornets to a handful of groups -- possibly two -- that would keep the team in Louisiana. The announcement of a purchase agreement could come soon after All-Star weekend, pending the resolution of talks between the league, Gov. Bobby Jindal's office and the Louisiana legislature on a new arena lease.

"We continue to work with the Hornets to reach a long-term leasing agreement," Frank Collins, Jindal's press secretary, said in a statement provided to CBSSports.com.

Cuban also weighed in on the new collective bargaining agreement, which he helped negotiate as a member of the owners' labor relations committee. Asked when it will be known whether the owners got a good deal or a bad deal, Cuban said, "We'll find out over the next three or four years. We’ll see what happens when we have a chance to opt out of it in six years.

Asked what criteria should be used to evaluate the new CBA, Cuban said, "Are all the teams making money? ... If all the teams have a chance to compete, then you have a better chance of making money. If you have a better chance of retaining your star players, you have a better chance of making money. So they all go hand in hand."
Posted on: February 17, 2012 11:56 pm
 

For Knicks, ideal ending to Linsanity

NEW YORK -- Linsanity was going to end some time. For the Knicks, this was the ideal script.

After seven straight wins over nearly two weeks, fueled by outlandish statistical production, a 38-point performance against the Lakers, a Hollywood buzzer-beater in Toronto and a team-wide revival of chemistry and good times, there had to be an ending. A return to normalcy.

A loss.

All of those things arrived Friday night for Lin and the Knicks, who lost to the previously six-win New Orleans Hornets 89-85. Lin provided glimpses of his lead-guard artistry, but also coughed up nine turnovers to go with his 26 points and five assists. The Knicks committed 21 turnovers resulting in 28 points, shot 4-for-24 from 3-point range and 19-for-29 from the foul line and trailed by as many as 14 points and held the opponent under 20 points.

So why is his good, that only one game after climbing all the way back to .500 after being 8-15 when Lin first got significant floor time on Feb. 4 against the Nets?

Because Carmelo Anthony, in all likelihood, returns Sunday afternoon at home against the Mavericks. And thus, the end of this magical ride with the undrafted, Asian-American point guard from Harvard can't be his fault.

"I don't think this is good because I hate losing," Lin said. "But I know what you're saying in terms of everything dying down a little bit. It may help me, it may help the team a little bit in terms of having everything off the court cool down."

Lin blamed himself for the loss, saying, "If everyone wants to credit me for the last seven games, then I definitely deserve this one on my shoulders. That's fine with me. ... Just a lackluster effort on my part. Nine turnovers is obviously not going to get it done from your primary ballhandler."

The teammate who will need broad shoulders once he's back was the guy warming up hours earlier before the game on the Madison Square Garden court, testing his strained groin and launching jumpers with his iPod playing in his ears. Anthony, who will try to practice Saturday with the goal of returning to the lineup Sunday, has heard day after day of pre-emptive criticism that his ball-stopping, isolation-oriented offensive style would derail the chemistry Lin has inspired and bog down the Knicks' offense.

So maybe it will be prudent to allow Anthony to actually come back and play with his new point guard before deciding that it can't work.

"I don't think it'll change from my standpoint, my approach to the game," Lin said. "I think I'm going to come in with the same mentality, to attack and be aggressive, maybe run (fewer) pick-and-rolls and hopefully be more efficient. Obviously, it's always a good thing when you have more weapons, more play-makers -- not that we don't have enough right now. But somebody with Melo's capabilities, you don't get that every day from anybody."

Also coming on board soon will be newly signed shooting guard J.R. Smith, who is expected to arrive in New York Saturday night -- though he's unlikely to play Sunday without having practiced with the team. Smith brings some baggage with him, but presumably he will put it down long enough to knock down 3-pointers in bunches, something the Knicks could not do Friday night.

Before all the changes and adjustments that will come with them, the end of Linsanity -- or at least, the return to normalcy -- is out of the way. And for the Knicks, that might just be for the best. 
Posted on: January 2, 2012 11:36 pm
 

'Uptight' Knicks get burned by Bargnani

NEW YORK -- According to Tyson Chandler, the Knicks were "uptight" Monday night in their first home game since their Christmas Day victory over the Celtics. Playing without Amar'e Stoudemire will do that to you.

But on the two possessions that doomed them against the Toronto Raptors, the Knicks weren't uptight. They were just at the mercy of Andrea Bargnani.

Clinging to a one-point lead in the final minute, the Raptors went to Bargnani on high pick-and-rolls on two straight possessions, anticipating that the Knicks would stick with their game-long approach to switching on the Toronto big man and leaving a smaller defender on him. Earlier in the game, when the screens had been set closer to the elbow, Bargnani got the ball in the mid-post against smaller defenders like Landry Fields and Toney Douglas and made them pay.

Both times at the end of the game, the Knicks switched and left Fields to defend Bargnani on the perimeter instead of Chandler. Both times, Bargnani delivered -- first with a 17-footer, and then with two free throws after Fields fouled him. The Raptors led by as many as 18 and beat the Knicks 90-85.

"It worked out for Andrea," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "One of the things he's doing is learning how to play against switches. That's the same thing Dirk (Nowitzki) went through, and so I was talking to him about that -- how we're using some of the same sets we used for Dirk against switches."

After Bargnani's 17-footer gave Toronto an 86-83 lead, Carmelo Anthony passed to Chandler for a dunk on a pick-and-roll to again cut it to one, 86-85, with 34.6 seconds left. The Raptors ran the same play and baited Fields into a foul, leading to two free throws and an 88-85 Raptors lead with 17.7 seconds left. The Knicks elected to go for a quick 3-point attempt from Anthony, which fell short.

"The play was for me to go quick," Anthony said. "We were down three with 17 seconds left. If I made it, we tied the game up. If I missed it, we had a chance to get the rebound."

Neither happened, leaving the Knicks to dwell on their defensive approach to guarding Bargnani (21 points) on the two most important possessions of the game. Switching on high pick-and-rolls is vintage Mike Woodson, the Knicks' defensive assistant who had a reputation for switching everything in Atlanta because he had so many long, quick athletes.

"I thought it was good that we switched it," Chandler said. "I definitely thought it was the right play. I just think we weren't aggressive enough with it. The play was for us to switch immediately and keep him more on the perimeter where the guard should have the advantage. The only time he's going to have the advantage is when he's more up on the elbow where he can be more comfortable with his shot and just kind of stand flat-footed and just shoot over the guy. Everything we do, we just have to be a little more aggressive with it."

After beating the Kings in Sacramento Saturday without Stoudemire (ankle), the Knicks are hopeful he'll return Wednesday night against Charlotte.

"We're not too concerned," said Anthony, who had 35 points but missed nine of his 13 shots in the second and third quarters. "We need him out there at 100 percent, not 70 percent."

In the meantime, the Knicks (2-3) need to "let go and play," Chandler said.

"Right now, it seems like we're a little uptight, and there's no reason to be," Chandler said.

Not yet, anyway.

 
Posted on: December 25, 2011 4:05 pm
 

'Relieved' Stern vows new CBA will work

DALLAS -- While admitting that he was "a little bit relieved" to be presiding over an opening day that almost didn't happen, NBA commisssioner David Stern vowed Sunday that the new labor agreement reached last month is "going to work over time" to create a competitively balanced league.

"We think we're going to come out of this pretty well," Stern said before his first opening-day stop, the NBA Finals rematch between the Heat and Mavericks. Afterward, Stern was set to make his way to Oklahoma City to watch the Magic and Thunder.

"We're beginning to see shorter contacts already under the collective bargaining agreement as teams cast a wary eye on two years from now, when the enhanced tax gets to be considerably higher and you have to be mindful of that," Stern said.

Of course, this being the NBA -- which has endured a rocky transition to the start of a 66-game season after a contentious, five-month labor fight -- some unresolved issues remain.

First, Stern addressed the fact that the owners of the two teams he was about to watch, Miami's Micky Arison and Dallas' Mark Cuban, were among the five who voted against the new labor deal. Arison has acknowledged that his no-vote was registered in protest, presumably over elements of the revenue-sharing plan that was a major sticking point for owners.

"That doesn't send any signal whatsoever," Stern said of the formal disapproval registered by Arison and Cuban, saying the revenue-sharing plan will amount to close to $200 million by the third year of the CBA -- giving "all teams the opportunity to compete," he said.

"The shorter contracts will make more free agents available on the market, and the enhanced tax system will make it more difficult for teams to use their resources simply to get a competitive advantage," Stern said.

But while Stern said the new agreement continues to embrace the concept of free agency, he solicited suggestions from the media audience as to how to address a more burning issue: the practice of players who are not yet free agents trying to force their way to the team of their choice, as Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul have done, and as Dwight Howard is in the process of doing.

"I'm an avid reader of many of your rants ... so what would you suggest?" Stern said to me when I asked him about the topic

"For example, a franchise tag," I said.

Stern pointed to a new measure in the CBA that allows a team to extend a star player by paying him 30 percent of the salary cap, as the Bulls recently did to retain reigning MVP Derrick Rose.

"After that, when a player has played a number of years in the league -- seven or eight -- and says, 'I don't want to re-sign in this particular city, I have a different choice,' it doesnt concern us at all that he has that option," Stern said. "This league has embraced free agency ... and has for decades. And that's fine."

Stern also pointed out that if a team decides to call an impending free agent's bluff and "try to persuade him" to stay after the season, there is a "strong incentive" in the form of the five-year contract with 7.5 percent raises that the home team can offer as opposed to a four-year deal with 4.5 percent raises that other suitors have available, he said.

"The difference at the max end is going to approach $30 million," Stern said. "So we'll be watching some interesting situations play out, whether players will forgo that difference."

Stern said the concept of players pushing to be traded to a team of his choice "goes back to Wilt (Chamberlain) and Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar). It's well-grounded in all sports, actually. And in fact, the NFL hasn't had to use its franchise player designation a lot. Either the player wants to stay or he doesn't want to stay, so I don't think we need it."

Among the other topics Stern addressed on opening day in Dallas before heading to Oklahoma City:

* On the trend set by the Heat with the formation of their Big Three last summer: "I don't think it's a slippery slope at all. I think the fact that players are able to move from team to team, having played under their contracts -- their rookie extension, whatever it is -- and find a team that is managed well enough so they are under the cap and they can acquire more than one player, we think that's fine. The ultimate for the league will be whether that's an interesting and fun team, and the Heat are an interesting and fun team."

* On the rising cost of stockpiling stars: "I don't think that free agency should be looked askance at because that's what players are entitled to do. It will get expensive over time for teams to acquire players with increasing contracts and the like, but it will have a way of working itself out. And I would say to you that this is going to be a system that is more likely than not to be here 10 years from now."

* On his role in the Chris Paul trade debacle: "I don't think it affected the integrity of the league. But I do think I could have done a better communications job."

* On the new CBA's impact on small-market teams: "A team that goes into the tax for a $20 million player in Year Three is going to pay $45M in tax money. We'll see who does that. And the way this is going to help the small team is that there will be more free agents available over time, playing out their four-year contracts and shorter -- because contracts are getting shorter. ... I hate to use the term 'small market,' because three of the smallest markets in our league are Oklahoma City, New Orleans and San Antonio. Don't cry for any of them, but they're small markets."

* On how and why the labor deal finally got done: "This process got speeded up because we sat down with the players and we agreed that Christmas Day was a wonderful magnet. If we were going to be able to play 66 games -- a 20 percent reduction, a 20 percent reduction in pay, etc. -- let's do it this weekend or we'll see you whenever. And whenever was going to be a very contentious whenever."

* On Cuban's criticism of Stern vetoing Paul's trade to the Lakers: "In the middle of this criticism of me throwing him under the bus, he managed to pick up Lamar Odom. Not bad."

* On what would've happened if the league had not taken over the Hornets: "We thought the team was gone. That would've been it. We wanted to give the team a chance in New Orleans, and we thought they could succeed there."
Posted on: December 14, 2011 2:34 pm
Edited on: December 14, 2011 6:33 pm
 

Magic not ready to trade Howard

Despite strong overtures from the New Jersey Nets, the Orlando Magic informed teams Wednesday they are not ready to seriously engage in trade discussions for All-Star center Dwight Howard, league sources told CBSSports.com.

The Nets were "pushing hard" over the past 48 hours and accelerated the talks to the point where teams were being recruited to serve as a third or fourth team to provide Orlando with the kind of assets it would find acceptable if there was no other option but to trade Howard. However, a person with knowledge of the situation said Wednesday, "The Magic are in no rush to do anything." The team's top priority remains to find a way to keep Howard in Orlando.

League sources confirmed that talks between the Nets and Magic gained momentum in recent days and that New Jersey was working on a complicated set of scenarios to land Howard that could involve one or two other teams. But the biggest hurdle was uncertainty over whether the Magic are ready to give up on trying to persuade Howard to stay in Orlando.

A person familiar with the discussions described them as "very complicated," and two other people confirmed that one scenario would have looped in the Trail Blazers as a third team to provide swingman Gerald Wallace as a second primary piece along with Nets center Brook Lopez in a package for Howard. As part of the deal, New Jersey also would have taken back Hedo Turkoglu and the $34 million left on his contract.

But a league source told CBSSports.com Wednesday that the scenario as currently constructed with Wallace joining Lopez in Orlando as the primary pieces was not enough to persuade the Magic to move forward with the deal.

"If people think things are imminent, then they're being led down the wrong path," the person said.

An executive within the league who is familiar with Orlando's situation said the expectation remains that the Magic will once again revisit trade scenarios for Howard, but not until after All-Star weekend -- which is being held in Orlando Feb. 24-26. The trade deadline during this shortened 66-game season will be March 15.

The Magic are determined to avoid another Shaq scenario -- when Shaquille O'Neal left Orlando as a free agent in 1996 and the team got nothing in return. If the only option is to trade Howard, sources said the team will be take its time to find the right deal. GM Otis Smith will not, and has not, limited himself to exploring deals with the three teams Howard has signaled he's willing to sign a long-term deal with -- the Nets, Lakers and Mavericks, sources said.

Among the factors fueling the Nets' heightened pursuit of Howard was the re-emergence of the Lakers in the Chris Paul trade discussions Tuesday, which led rival executives to believe that the Lakers were more focused on landing Paul than Howard. But the Los Angeles Times reported that Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak was engaged in conversations about both superstars, and people with direct knowledge of Howard's strategy have had the Lakers at the top of his wish list since at least February 2010. The Nets, who are moving to a new arena in Brookyn in 2012, became more attractive when the team acquired All-Star point guard Deron Williams this past February.

Another factor that ramped up the Nets-Magic talks was free-agent big man Nene's decision to stay in Denver with a five-year, $67 million contract. Nene was atop the Nets' free-agent wish list, but their primary objective since acquiring Williams has been to land Howard -- either in a trade or as a free agent next summer.

The Mavericks, the third team on Howard's list of preferred trade destinations, have continued to dutifully clear 2012 cap space in an effort that is geared toward a possible run at Howard if he gets to free agency or Williams, who went to high school in the Dallas area, if he is not persuaded to stay with the Nets after he opts out of his contract and becomes a free agent on July 1.

Last week, the Magic gave Howard's agent, Dan Fegan, permission to speak with the Nets, Lakers and Mavericks about a possible trade. But sources said the team has no intention of limiting its options to those teams if and when it decides that there's no other choice but to trade Howard. As long as the team can endure the media circus, the Magic can afford to wait for a better deal -- with the hope, sources said, that adding another piece to the team in the meantime and starting the season on a winning note between the Christmas opener and the All-Star break would help persuade Howard to stay.

In fact, although Howard complained last week about the lack of input he'd been given in personnel decisions, the facts do not agree. While Howard disagreed with the decision to waive Gilbert Arenas with the amnesty provision, Arenas wouldn't have been in Orlando to begin with if not for Howard, who is close to him. The move didn't work out, and the organization had no choice but to take advantage of the amnesty clause, which allows it to wipe Arenas' massive contract off the cap and tax and use the flexibility gained to improve the team.

A league source said Howard also requested that Smith acquire Glen "Big Baby" Davis from the Celtics, which he did in recent days in a trade for Brandon Bass.

"He's been as involved as any superstar on any team," the league source said.

The Magic also have to address changes in the front office, with former team president Alex Martins suddenly taking over as CEO for Bob Vander Weide. How the new hierarchy is handled could have an impact on the timing and terms of any Howard trade, sources said. But while the Magic can afford to be patient, perhaps all the way to the March 15 trade deadline, the team can't play chicken with Howard for too long. Under provisions of the new collective bargaining agreement, the Magic would not be able to hold out for the worst-case scenario of a sign-and-trade because such a maneuver no longer provides a free agent with maximum length and dollars when he leaves his team.

If Orlando waited Howard out through the season and called his bluff that he wouldn't choose, say, a four-year, $76 million free-agent deal with the Nets over the five-year, $100 million the Magic could offer, they would have no sign-and-trade recourse if that's what Howard decided to do. The stakes also are exceedingly high for the Nets, who would face losing Williams under similar circumstances.
Posted on: December 14, 2011 12:02 am
Edited on: December 14, 2011 11:59 am
 

CP3 developments push Nets' pursuit of Howard

So now we know why the Magic never filed those tampering charges against the Nets.

For one thing, the latest developments in the Chris Paul saga point to New Jersey (i.e. Brooklyn) moving into prime position to land All-Star center Dwight Howard in a trade -- if Orlando decides to go that route.

Or so the Nets hope.

The Lakers re-entered the Paul trade talks Tuesday night, and would need a third team to funnel the young prospects to New Orleans along with Pau Gasol in return for the gifted point guard. Clippers brass were unfazed by these developments, sources told CBSSports.com, having expected that the Lakers would re-enter the talks at some point -- either for real or for leverage purposes.

UPDATE: The re-emergence of the Lakers, who had a three-team trade for Paul also involving Houston fall through when league executives deemed it too expensive and not yielding enough young talent for New Orleans, combined with other factors Tuesday to signal that the Nets' pursuit of Howard was about to reach a new level of urgency. One of those factors was free-agent big man Nene, one of the Nets' top free-agent targets, agreeing to a five-year, $67 million deal to stay in Denver.

If the Lakers sent Gasol to New Orleans for Paul, they presumably could not find enough talent elsewhere to include in a separate deal for Howard as well -- although the Los Angeles Times reported that Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak was engaged in conversations about both Paul and Howard. The Mavericks, the third team on Howard's list of preferred trade destinations, continued to dutifully clear 2012 cap space Tuesday, an effort sources say is geared toward a possible run at Howard if he gets to free agency or Texan Deron Williams if he is not persuaded to stay with the Nets when the team moves to Brooklyn in 2012.

League sources confirmed that talks between the Nets and Magic gained momentum in recent days and that New Jersey was working on a complicated set of scenarios to land Howard that could involve one or two other teams. The Nets are "pushing hard," a source said, but the biggest hurdle was uncertainty over whether the Magic are ready to give up on trying to persuade Howard to stay in Orlando.

A person familiar with the discussions described them as "very complicated," and two other people confirmed that one scenario would loop in the Trail Blazers as a third team to provide swingman Gerald Wallace as a second primary piece along with Nets center Brook Lopez in a package for Howard. As part of the deal, New Jersey also would have to take back Hedo Turkoglu and the $34 million left on his contract.

UPDATE: A league source told CBSSports.com that the Magic are "not in a rush to do anything," and that the team's first priority is to keep Howard. The scenario as currently constructed with Wallace joining Lopez in Orlando as the primary pieces is not enough to persuade the organization to move forward with the deal quickly, the person said.

"If people think things are imminent, then they're being led down the wrong path," the person said.

The organization is determined, however, to avoid another Shaq scenario -- when Shaquille O'Neal left Orlando as a free agent in 1996 and the team got nothing in return. If the only option is to trade Howard, sources said the team will be take its time to find the right deal. GM Otis Smith will not, and has not, limited himself to exploring deals with the three teams Howard has signaled he's willing to sign a long-term deal with -- the Nets, Lakers and Mavericks, sources said.

Though it isn't certain yet whether the Magic are ready to go through with a deal parting with Howard, Orlando seems to be seeking some elements of the kind of package New Jersey worked for months to assemble for Denver last season in its pursuit of Carmelo Anthony: a combination of established players, prospects and draft picks. Given Howard's stature and the stakes for both teams, this package will have to be substantially more valuable -- and thus, more difficult to assemble.

Which brings us back to those tampering charges that never materialized.

The Magic last week were weighing the possibility of filing a tampering charge against the Nets over a reported meeting in Miami involving Howard and Nets officials. The alleged meeting occurred before Smith gave Howard's agent, Dan Fegan, permission to speak with the Nets, Lakers and Mavericks about a possible trade. A league source told CBSSports.com Tuesday that the potential tampering charges are "on the back burner" while the team weighs its options. Knowing that the Nets may turn out to be the best trade partner, the Magic were reluctant to burn that bridge before the negotiations even got off the ground, sources said.

A lot is in flux in the Magic front office, with team president Alex Martins taking over as CEO for the departed Bob Vander Weide, and now the brass are trying to evaluate what is the best option for dealing with the Howard situation, sources said. 

"There's going to be a little bit of a bidding process if anybody wants him," an executive within the league said Tuesday.

The Nets' pursuit of Howard is tied to their acquisition of Williams from the Jazz last season, and now is inexorably linked to the Paul talks, which are perhaps the most complicated trade negotiation in NBA history. League executives Joel Litvin and Stu Jackson, acting on behalf of the 29 owners who have custody of the franchise, are running the talks for the Hornets. After being declared dead Monday, negotiations between the Clippers and league office reignited later that evening and continued Tuesday -- with the Clippers waiting for the price for Paul to come down since they were the only team bidding for him. 

The Clippers' successful waiver claim of veteran point guard Chauncey Billups undoubtedly helped that effort, as Clippers GM Neil Olshey was then free to include point guard Eric Bledsoe in the deal. But Olshey was still unwilling to part with both sharpshooter Eric Gordon and the Timberwolves' unprotected 2012 first-round pick, and that was primarily the reason no conclusion was reached Tuesday, sources said. 

The best the Nets can offer for Howard is Lopez, a less accomplished but more durableversion of the Lakers' Andrew Bynum, plus multiple first-round picks and a signed-and-traded Kris Humphries. But the Nets have been exploring ways to bring in a third or even fourth team that could convey more assets to Orlando, and New Jersey GM Billy King has signaled to associates that such a maneuver won't be a problem. King has proved to be one of the most adept executives in the league at assembling complicated, multi-team deals.
 
 
 
 
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