(Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Otis Smith, the Orlando Magic's President of Basketball Operations, "was taking calls Tuesday" to survey the trade market for All-Star center Dwight Howard, according to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, a sign that Orlando management might be "coming to grips" with the fact that Howard will almost certainly leave the Magic as a free agent in July. With the NBA trade deadline looming Thursday, time is running out for Orlando to get something in return for its all-time leading scorer.
Publicly, Smith would only parrot "the company line," Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel says. "He said no decision has been made and nothing is imminent."
Earlier Tuesday, Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported Howard is "determined" to join the New Jersey Nets as a free agent, but does not want to be traded there, as such a move would cost the Nets talent and draft picks.
Despite that report, Berger says folks around the NBA are skeptical Howard has ruled out signing with the Dallas Mavericks in free agency. Dallas is one of the three teams to which Howard requested a trade during training camp, and though it'd need to shed multiple contracts to create enough cap space to sign Howard and Nets All-Star point guard Deron Williams, owner Mark Cuban might be savvy enough to pull it off. "He's a smart guy," Berger quotes one NBA agent as saying. "He'll figure it out."
Further, there's still a chance Orlando could trade Howard to a team other than the Nets before Thursday. "Several" teams are willing to "rent" Howard--that is, acquire him without a long-term commitment from him--according to Magic CEO Alex Martins, as quoted by the Sentinel's Brian Schmitz.