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L.A. Lakers: Johnson to Nets Means Howard Is Available, If the Lakers Want Him

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 13:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic smiles during the game against the Miami Heat at Amway Center on March 13, 2012 in Orlando, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
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Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IJuly 2, 2012

According to Yahoo! Sports, the Atlanta Hawks have reached an agreement to send guard Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets, thus ridding themselves of Johnson's $90 million contract and virtually assuring there will be no Dwight Howard - Deron Williams marriage in the Big Apple, at least for now.

Johnson's sum—coupled with the $40 million extension just signed by Gerald Wallace, the $100 million it will likely take to keep Williams in Brooklyn and the nearly $50 million that Brook Lopez will collect—makes a trade for Howard very unlikely.

But it certainly enhances the Los Angeles Lakers chances of dealing for Howard, if they really want him.

The Lakers have definitely started talking to the Magic about the possibilities of acquiring Howard, but there is no way to gauge Howard's declaration that there is only one team he will sign a long-term contract with.

Does he mean one team period, or just right now?

Howard's Mitt Romney-esque tendency to change direction with the breeze makes it impossible to predict if his latest ultimatum is sincere, but it places the Lakers in a very precarious situation when it comes to the future of the franchise.

The Magic are unlikely to accept any Lakers overture unless it comes gift wrapped with the 24-year-old Andrew Bynum, but the Lakers would be ridiculous to give Bynum away without a contract extension from Howard.

Especially since nothing Howard says or does can be trusted.

As Howard's free agency approached, I was one of his biggest advocates for joining the Lakers, and his progression as the next Lakers big man seemed like a matter of course.

However, Howard's recent acts of immaturity and indecision have tarnished whatever appeal he had in my opinion, and his back injury and subsequent surgery only create more questions.

The Lakers could probably convince Howard to stay in Los Angeles long term, and it doesn't hurt that arena-mate Chris Paul might find the Lakers purple and gold more attractive if Howard was wearing the colors. But Howard's back injury concerns me.

Maybe it's nothing, or it could be the beginning of Howard's own journey down a road previously traveled by former superstar Tracy McGrady.

McGrady had the potential and talent to be an NBA legend, but he could never get his gimpy back in line with his aspirations.

Howard doesn't have anywhere the natural skill that McGrady has relied on to prolong his career, and if there are any residual effects from Howard's injury, they will likely show up in the most important parts of his game, which are his athleticism and explosiveness.

Still, it will be difficult for the Lakers to pass up on a player with Howard's potential if he is healthy and, character issues aside, because he is just the type of player the franchise has built their legacy around.

A healthy and dominant Howard playing beside Kobe Bryant could probably change some opinions in a hurry, but is acquiring Howard on what may be rental terms worth the risk?

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