Here's what we (think we) know about Dwight Howard right now:
-He's in Los Angeles rehabilitating his surgically-repaired back.
-He's not particularly interested in playing for the Houston Rockets, who are likely out of running until late August after finally signing their draft picks.
-The Brooklyn Nets are likely on Dwight's wish list, despite the fact that they can't realistically rejoin the trade chase until January, when Brook Lopez becomes a tradeable commodity again.
-According to Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel, Magic GM Rob Hennigan is in no hurry to move Howard, suggesting a willingness to begin the 2012-13 season with the six-time All-Star center on the roster.
In other words, the Dwightmare isn't over, and Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak has plenty of potential wheeling-and-dealing left to attend to before the fall rolls around...and beyond, if nothing happens between now and the start of the season.
And, considering Kupchak's track record of success over the years (including this summer), it wouldn't be all that surprising to see him pull off yet another blockbuster move to vault the Lakers back into title contention.
But how might LA's front-office wizard turn the Magic's wantaway superstar into the latest in a long line of Lakers legends?
A (more or less) straight-up swap involving Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard remains the most obvious deal to be made between the Lakers and the Magic. They're the top two centers in the NBA today, and Bynum, while saddled with bad knees and a reputation for being completely aloof at times, is younger and more offensively skilled than Dwight.
Bynum's the single best player currently on offer for Howard and, at 24, is young enough to grow with and serve as the centerpiece of Orlando's impending rebuild.
The Magic, though, don't seem particularly keen to take Bynum in return, and not just because he isn't as skilled as Dwight on the defensive end. For one, the Magic want to offload expensive contracts and take back valuable draft picks and cheap, young players in any deal for Dwight. The Lakers, though, are already neck-deep in luxury tax territory, thereby severely restricting their financial flexibility, and lack attractive picks to trade after shipping four of them to the Phoenix Suns to acquire Steve Nash.
And even if LA had picks to move, would the Magic really care for choices that would likely land late in the first round from here to eternity?
Also, even if Orlando were keen to acquire Bynum, there's no guarantee that he'd stick around—be it via extension or a brand-new contract in free agency—rather than walk away next summer, just as Howard figures to do.
Much of Mitch's leverage in trying to engineer a two-team trade with the Magic will depend on how the rest of the market looks to Hennigan, his counterpart in Orlando. That is, if Dwight is still in a Magic uniform during the season and other suitors (i.e., the Nets and the Rockets) continue to come to the table with substandard offers, Hennigan may find the Lakers' potential package that much more amenable.
Chances are, if that's the case, the Lakers will move to sign Bynum to an extension. Should Bynum agree to it, he wouldn't be eligible for movement until close to the trade deadline, not unlike Brook Lopez's situation with the Nets.
Whether the Magic would even want Lopez in return—depending on how his twice-broken foot holds up under duress—is another story entirely, as is Orlando's desire for any of Brooklyn's other assets, among them MarShon Brooks and a slew of likely-late-first-round draft picks.
Houston would still be able to offer the best draft considerations (i.e., a guaranteed lottery pick from the Raptors) and plenty of space for salary absorption, but would the Magic care for any of the actual players they might be able to acquire in return?
Perhaps the extra time would allow the Oklahoma City Thunder to wake up and realize that they could pry Dwight from Orlando for James Harden and/or Serge Ibaka to make themselves the prohibitive title favorites.
Barring anything straight out of left field, though, it might just behoove Mitch to wait this one out, just as Hennigan is, until his offer once again stands head-and-shoulders above any other on the market.
Now, if the Lakers could somehow convince the Rockets they'd be better off with an All-Star center who might re-sign with them (Bynum) rather than one who says he won't (Howard), then the Dwightmare clock just might speed up to midnight, at long last.
There had been rumblings about such an arrangement earlier in the summer, with LA sending out Bynum and, perhaps, an easily digestible contract or two (i.e., Steve Blake, Josh McRoberts), taking back Howard and Jason Richardson, and watching as Houston launched picks and expiring deals and took back a "bad" contract or two themselves.
Granted, Rockets GM and Grantland-labeled "Dork Elvis" Daryl Morey probably didn't decide to blow up his roster so he could land the second-best center in the NBA, though Bynum would hardly be a consolation prize worth snubbing his nose at.
The key, as with any trade, would lie in making such a deal a more sensible and workable one for the Rockets than any they could strike up with the Magic on their own.
Then again, if Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal-Times is correct, then Houston might not be in the running for Dwight anymore as is. In that case, Morey may be more inclined to cast his lot with Bynum, as opposed to taking his chances on a full-scale, draft-centric rebuilding project.
Even if it means facilitating the construction of another Lakers dynasty.
If not the Rockets, perhaps the Cleveland Cavaliers could serve as a third party to the Lakers' pursuit of Dwight Howard. They own what might best be described as a boatload of draft picks in the coming years and have a spot of financial flexibility to take back some unwanted salary from the Magic.
The Cavs might also be amenable to accelerating their post-LeBron rebuild by pairing Bynum with Rookie of the Year and budding superstar point guard Kyrie Irving.
But, as Sam Amico of FOX Sports Ohio reported over the weekend, any iteration of a Howard deal involving the Cavs would have its own complications. Aside from concerns about Bynum's interest in staying in Cleveland (which earlier rumors have suggested he would consider), there's the all-important issue of satiating Orlando's demands.
Which, apparently, Cleveland's collection of "spare parts"—chief among them Anderson Varejao—wouldn't accomplish.
Speaking of spare parts, that's a fair approximation of the Minnesota Timberwolves' roster outside of two-time All-Star Kevin Love and on-the-mend rookie phenom Ricky Rubio.
That is, unless you're of the belief that adding two parts of Team Russia—Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved—brings a newfound sense of cohesion to GM David Kahn's ongoing fulfillment of Bill Simmons' sports-page-to-front-office fantasy.
The T-Wolves have yet to be tied to the Dwightmare by the rumor mill, but they've been known to be a potential partner for Mitch Kupchak in the recent past, with separate moves involving Michael Beasley and Pau Gasol winding up in Nowheresville.
Still, the lines of communication between the two parties have been open before and could, ostensibly, be opened again if the Lakers were to loop the T-Wolves in on a Howard deal.
Whether the Wolves would be willing to take back Bynum remains to be seen. If Minnesota is keen to pair Pau with Rubio, his Spanish compadre, LA might then have to consider sacrificing both of their big men to ultimately make a deal for Howard work, with some other pieces coming back to the Staples Center to fill the void.
But Minny picks, young players and cap space to offer up in facilitation if it were so inclined.
And if the Lakers were to loop the T-Wolves in on all of the "fun" they've been having with the Magic.