I have heard rumors linking Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard to every team in the NBA except the Charlotte Bobcats, but according to the Magic, Howard's agent only has permission to discuss possible deals with three teams.
According to ESPN, the New Jersey Nets, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers are the primary front-runners in the race to win Howard's services, and if the field is really that narrow, it would appear the Lakers would be the clear favorites, right?
Los Angeles is a bigger media market than Dallas, and while the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets can compete with the Lakers in that category, they have to share that space with another NBA team that just happens to be a little more popular.
Nets fans would probably say that the Lakers not only share a city, but they also share an arena. And most would probably point out that Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are more than holding their own when it comes to popularity, especially with the birth of "Lob City."
Right now, I would definitely agree with that assessment, but it's not really about the players, it's the franchise.
The Knicks may only be a little better than the Nets on the court right now, but historically, the Nets are not even in the same class as New York, and that's regardless of New Jersey's two NBA Finals' trips during the Jason Kidd era.
The Clippers are extremely popular right now, but Los Angeles has and likely always will be the Lakers' town, and if you don't believe it, take a look at the color of all the championship banners in the Staples Center.
The Clippers may one day relegate the Lakers to the status of Los Angeles' "other team," but it will not be in yours or my lifetime.
When it comes to Howard, though, the size of the media market will matter far less than his potential trade value, at least in the eyes of Magic general manager Otis Smith.
Howard has not backed away from publicly saying he wants to be dealt, and Smith knows that in order to avoid losing Howard for nothing this summer, he may have to accept the best deal available.
And can the Nets offer Orlando a better deal than the Lakers?
Brooke Lopez was the centerpiece of a potential deal for Howard, but his foot injury has cast a cloud over that scenario, and Lakers center Andrew Bynum is a better player anyway, and he's performing like it.
Bynum has returned from his four-game suspension on a mission, and his 18.8 points per game average and 15.7 rebounds in six games probably looks a lot better to Smith than Lopez sitting on the sideline.
The prospects of playing with Dirk Nowitzki and Kidd in Dallas is probably attractive to Howard, but is any player on their roster really attractive to Smith and the Magic?
I'm sure Mavericks owner Mark Cuban may have a trick or two up his sleeve to lure Howard to Texas, but unless one of those sleeves contains a clone of Bynum, then the Lakers still have a better centerpiece to offer.
In fact, no other team besides the Lakers can offer Orlando a potentially dominant center to replace the one they are losing, and this little bit of truth may be the most important factor of all.
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