Howard told Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated that "nothing has changed" with regards to his request for a trade, yet at the same time, everything has changed.
It has been over a month since Howard reportedly requested a trade to the New Jersey Nets and was also given permission to talk to the Dallas Mavericks and Lakers. In that time span, much has changed. Brook Lopez is on the sidelines, the Mavericks are desperate for a turnaround and most notably, the Lakers are starting to get their act together.
For the entire offseason, many were clamoring for the Lakers to do whatever it took to land the star center. Los Angeles got swept in the second round of the playoffs last year, Kobe Bryant had all of a sudden become a question mark, Andrew Bynum remained the poster-child for inconsistency and a downward tailspin seemed imminent.
But not anymore.
One failed Chris Paul trade and lackluster start later, the Lakers are alive. Bryant has proved to be as lethal as ever, Pau Gasol is getting it done on both ends, and most importantly, Bynum has turned a corner. And that's bad news for the Magic.
When it comes to Howard, every organization is going to be interested, Los Angeles isn't about to close the books on him. That being said, there is no longer a sense of desperate urgency to land him, and that is crucial.
Prior to their rejuvenation, the Lakers seemed unwilling to part with both Gasol and Bynum for Howard, so we cannot knock the Magic for remaining patient, right?
If you remember, the Los Angeles Clippers were unwilling to relinquish both Eric Gordon and the Minnesota Timberwolves' unprotected first-round draft pick in exchange for Paul, yet they eventually did. The New Orleans Hornets opted not to let the drama surrounding their star drag on, but more importantly, did not allow the Clippers time to see what they had without Paul.
Orlando has failed to do the same for Lakers, who, without a doubt, can offer the most competitive package for Howard. The Nets' package—granted Lopez returns to form—is appealing if the Magic were interested in youth, but they aren't. Orlando doesn't want to rebuild, rendering the Lakers their most valuable trade partner.
Would the Magic have been able to pry both the Lakers bigs out of their grasp? It may have been debatable then, but not anymore. Bynum is on a tear, averaging 17.9 points, 14.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game while posting a 22.6 PER.
It doesn't hurt that Bryant recently referred to Bynum as one of the Lakers' "bona fide All-Stars" either.
Orlando made a grave mistake by not pushing the Lakers early on. The team can maintain hope that Howard will have a change of heart, but the Magic just don't have the pieces—or ability to acquire the pieces—that will keep their center happy.
Not too long ago, Orlando had the opportunity to cash in as much as possible on Howard's departure. Now, though? Not so much, and as a result they may find themselves settling for a less appealing package from the Nets or the Lakers themselves.
Los Angeles has played itself out of desperation mode. The Lakers now have the luxury of patience with regard Howard's future, something the Magic never had.