This is nothing new, and nothing shocking. This news should not be making any headlines across the nation. However, it may have been the turning point where the new Orlando GM Rob Hennigan accepts he is going to lose his superstar no matter how hard he tries.
So what does this mean for the Lakers, and why would this be in any way connected to the Lakers reportedly entering discussions for an extension for Andrew Bynum?
That is what is occurring here. While many may see the Dwight-trade-talks and Bynum-extensions as mutually exclusive scenarios, that if the Lakers extend Bynum then the Dwight-to-LA dreams are over, this simply isn't true.
In fact, Bynum will not be signed to an extension. By no team, even if he is traded.
Mitch Kupchak, one of the shrewdest GM's and among the best at his job in the Association, knows this. He knows that even if Bynum is offered a max contract extension, it will be turned down. Why in the world would Andrew Bynum, coming off a healthy and career year, sign a three-year max deal when he could simply wait a season and sign a four- or five-year deal at the same rate?
Once he becomes an unrestricted free agent over the summer, any other team can offer a max four-year deal. If Drew decides he wants to stay in the sunny place of Lakerland, then he can cash in on a five-year max contract via Bird Rights.
A four- or five-year deal is a safer bet for any NBA player, which is only amplified if the player in question has had an injury-riddled career. Financial security is hard to come by in this economy. NBA players' agents know this and will try to maximize their clients' (as well as their own) profits while the getting is good.
But once again, how does this connect so perfectly to Dwight?
The answer to that, once again, is leverage. Kupchak knows that Bynum will turn down his extension. At the same time, however, he's fully aware that Hennigan and the Orlando brass are at an all-time-low in terms of their own leverage in a deal. Dwight has given them an ultimatum with three options: trade me to the Lakers before the season, to the Brooklyn Nets at the trade deadline or I'm walking as a free agent.
Simply stating that the Lakers are beginning extension negotiations with Bynum further pushes the pressure on the Magic to make a move. Andrew Bynum is the best trade chip that Orlando has to work with. Bynum can either be swapped, or Los Angeles can find a willing third team to facilitate the deal.
In reality, which team wouldn't love an up-and-coming star player, especially in a true-center-starved league? If an extension is signed between Bynum and the Lakers, one less potential trade partner is off the board, which means even less leverage for Orlando when they look to deal Howard.
Most of the Dwight Howard trade rumors that readers have learned of have been similar types of moves: smoke and mirrors thrown out by different camps to try to bring the ball back in their court. GMs of teams are always looking to "win" that extra player or pick in the deal, which is due diligence for their position.
Orlando, less than a week ago, stole the ball back from the Dwight suitors by saying they may hold onto Dwight until next year unless they receive "acceptable compensation" for their six-time All-Star. Hennigan acts as Heisenberg, declaring "we're done, when I say we're done".
Kupchak won't be fooled, however, and made a brilliant move. He upped the ante. Raised the stakes. Whatever one wishes to call it, he made a savvy move as a GM, knowing that he has more power than the other side now.
The ball is now in the Lakers' court, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call leverage.