The Dwight Howard debacle, which has crippled the Orlando Magic franchise to its knees, may finally come to an end tonight, as there currently is major trade speculation surrounding the All-NBA talent. Sure, nothing is imminent, but recent events have transpired that make a blockbuster trade with Howard more than just plausible tonight and the days following.
With the recent hiring of a new GM in former Oklahoma City executive Rob Hennigan, the cleaning of house that just occurred in the Orlando Magic brass and the two trades that were accepted by the Houston Rockets, the NBA's best center may have played his last game in Blue and White.
It has become painfully obvious that Howard doesn't have his heart in Orlando and may become more open to the media about his disinterest in playing the rest of his prime in the city that drafted him first overall in 2004.
On the other hand, the Magic will do everything possible to not have a repeat of last year's saga. Whether it be trading their franchise cornerstone or forcing him to sign a long-term extension, a drama-filled season will almost certainly not happen in Orlando.
Nonetheless, here is the latest news surrounding the Magic's big man.
Before we can delve into the latest news regarding the All-NBA center, we first must take a trip down memory lane and remember all the major events that occurred earlier in the debacle.
No, this is not an ordinary elementary school history class, so you do not have to spit out your gum.
Before this year's condensed schedule lifted off, there were a plethora of reports that Howard was unwilling to play in Orlando due to the roster's lack of a second star and Orlando's small market. The latter reason would be acknowledged by the perennial All-Star as one of the problems he sees in the organization.
Nonetheless, Howard created a list of preferred destinations that would be used as a guideline for the Orlando Magic, which included the Los Angeles Lakers, New Jersey Nets and Dallas Mavericks. While the list would never expand, Howard was reported to also be interested in the Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Clippers and New York Knicks.
Despite all of these possible trading partners, no deal was presented to Orlando enticing enough to part ways with arguably the best player in franchise history.
With no trade in sight and the city of Orlando beginning to develop a more sinister view of their center, Howard decided to waive his early-termination option, which keeps him in contract till next offseason. According to reports, Howard would immediately regret this decision.
More events would transpire in this soap opera, including an interview that could be the definition of awkward. I am, of course, referring to this precious gem where coach Stan Van Gundy tells the media that Howard wants him fired only for Howard to deny the statement moments later. In turn, this would be the climactic moment in this year's Orlando season.
Howard would later need surgery on a herniated disk, officially knocking Orlando out of contention for a deep playoff run. The Magic would be defeated by the Indiana Pacers in an unspectacular five-game series.
After the unfortunate playoff series, the Magic would release longtime head coach Stan Van Gundy and GM Otis Smith would give up his position. Many speculate if Howard was behind these changes.
Now, let's get to the interesting part.
The Houston Rockets are still reeling from the retirement of Yao Ming and the departure of Tracy McGrady. Gone are the days where this fearsome tandem struck fear in the opponent's eyes due to their intimidating length and incredible scoring prowess. Now, one is out of the league and the other is desperately trying to maintain a spot.
Both caught the unfortunate injury bug way too soon in their respective careers.
Since these two perennial All-Stars, the Rockets have been unable to obtain a star player to lead their talented roster. Last season, the Rockets made a strong push for veteran Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers until the infamous decision to veto the Chris Paul trade by NBA commissioner David Stern.
This year, the Rockets have loftier goals, as the team is trying to acquire the best center in the Association, Dwight Howard.
Houston has already made two trades in the past few days in hopes of presenting an enticing offer to the Orlando Magic franchise. The first trade included the Minnesota Timberwolves, where the Rockets shipped small forward Chase Budinger for the 18th pick.
The second transaction was with the Milwaukee Bucks. In this deal, the Rockets exchanged the aging Samuel Dalembert and the 14th pick for Jon Brockman, Jon Leuer, Shaun Livingston and the 12th pick.
The organization was also Kings close to deal with Rockets" href="http://espn.go.com/nba/draft2012/story/_/id/8108693/2012-nba-draft-houston-rockets-sacramento-kings-talking-no-5-pick-sources-say" target="_blank">close to a deal with the Kings that would land them both Tyreke Evans and the 5th overall pick.
This is an obvious attempt by Houston to land the next face of the Rockets franchise.
However, Howard has no interest to join the franchise, according to reports.
According to Sam Amick of SI.com, the Orlando Magic front office is unmoved by the Rockets' recent acquisitions and are not interested in Houston's probable package of a plethora of draft picks.
In addition, the Magic, known contrarians, seem unwilling to deal Howard for a multitude of reasons, including the recent hiring of Rob Hennigan.
Hennigan, who is only 30 years old, comes from two organizations who are known to make decisions at a slower pace. Both the Oklahoma City Thunder, which he worked for last year, and the San Antonio Spurs don't rush transactions and, instead, like to carefully examine the situation.
Obviously, Hennigan has gained valuable experience at these respective franchises and is probably reluctant to pull the trigger on a Howard trade in his first week in office.
Josh Smith and Dwight Howard
Marc Stein of ESPN.com reports that the Orlando Magic are in hot pursuit of Atlanta Hawks electrifying forward Josh Smith. While there is no rumors regarding how serious the talks are, it has become abundantly clear that Orlando is pulling out all the stops to appease Dwight Howard.
Smith, who is coming off a career-year, ranks as one of Howard's closest friends. Both grew up in the city of Atlanta and played on the same AAU team. Additionally, they both entered the league in 2004.
There have been reports that the Hawks are willing to deal the troublesome forward in hopes of building for the future. Plus, the big man duo of Al Horford and Josh Smith has never been quite compatible, as both forwards are undersized.
It would be a huge boost for the Magic franchise if they somehow land this coveted forward, but it seems quite unlikely due to the lack of enticing trade assets.
Smith averaged nearly 19 points and 10 boards last year.
Dwight Howard has requested a trade from the Orlando Magic.
Blink twice if that sounds familiar.
After his previous trade request came under ex-general manager Otis Smith, Howard has informed new GM Rob Hennigan that he has no interest in continuing his career in Orlando and would like to be traded to the Brooklyn Nets, according to ESPN's Chris Broussard.
But it doesn't just stop there.
Hennigan did not say whether or not he would trade Howard, he simply "heard Howard out," and clearly the big man is fixated on a future away from the Magic. The situation is reportedly "ugly" between the two parties and Howard feels disrespected by what has transpired.
Howard is reportedly considering legal action, but that's really not in his best interest. It's likely an empty threat, but Howard will use whatever leverage he can at this point to expedite a deal.
As a result of it all, Yahoo! Sports reports that the Magic "have begun to seriously consider offers" to ship Howard elsewhere.
Dwight Howard is once again on the trade block, and the Orlando Magic would probably love nothing more than to get another elite center in Andrew Bynum for their current star.
Once again, the Magic and Los Angeles Lakers "have had preliminary contact about a possible deal for All-Star center Dwight Howard," Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported on July 1, a little more than 12 hours after the free agent period had begun.
New general manager Rob Hennigan isn't going to simply kowtow to Howard's trade request. Since being hired for the job, the 30-year-old GM has made it clear that he intends to build the franchise in a different manner than what fans had been accustomed to in recent seasons.
In other words, don't expect to see some of the outlandish offers we did during Otis Smith's tenure.
However, the Lakers aren't the only team talking to Orlando. The Brooklyn Nets and Houston Rockets also remain active in discussions, and it wouldn't be surprising to see both of those teams get more aggressive in their pursuit.
Wojnarowski writes that the Lakers have not made a firm offer to date, but "there's no scenario" where the Magic accept anything less than a package built around Bynum.
One has to wonder if the Lakers will once again agree to offer Bynum in a potential deal for Howard, and there's no question that Orlando doesn't have a more intriguing offer on the table.