The Magic are going to quickly run into the trade deadline, and they need to do everything they can to get value for Howard before they watch him walk away for nothing.
The Hawks and Magic had been engaged in trade talks earlier this month. The Magic must resume these discussions.
Which team will Howard be a member of following the trade deadline?
Marc Stein of ESPN notes that the Hawks had offered up the following trade package to the Magic:
Sources told ESPN.com that the aforementioned Hawks, meanwhile, engaged Orlando in trade talks for Howard earlier this month with an offer believed to be headlined by $124 million guard Joe Johnson and swingman Josh Smith. You have to figure that the Magic, though, would insist on Al Horford if such discussions ever got serious.
Stein goes on to report that these talks have stalled out.
Why This Deal Won't Happen
Even if the Hawks do throw in Horford, this deal is not going to happen. The reason is that Howard is not going to sign with the Hawks.
Howard is from Atlanta. So the fact that Atlanta is not on his list of preferred destinations is completely revealing.
Howard didn't fail to mention the Hawks in preferred teams (Nets, Lakers, Mavericks) because they slipped his mind. He likely saw the uncertainty surrounding their ownership and decided he wanted no part of them.
Is Bynum and Gasol the best possible trade option for the Magic?
Why the Magic Must Make it Appear to be Happening
Orlando needs to reengage the Hawks in these trade talks. They need to leak that these talks are getting serious.
They need the leverage. Once their deal fell apart with the Nets, when Brook Lopez suffered a foot injury, this team lost its favored trading partner and the ability to entice a team—namely the Lakers—out of more talent for Howard.
As it is now, the Lakers have no reason to enhance their offer. They can simply sit back, and wait for the Magic to get pushed up against the trade deadline and come crawling to them.
If the Lakers get nervous that Howard is about to be shipped someplace else, they will be the team feeling the desperation.
Having the Hawks as leverage could be the difference between the Magic landing a trade package centered just around Andrew Bynum and one that is centered around Bynum and Pau Gasol.
And that is the difference between being a playoff contender and a rebuilding team.