Mandatory Credit: Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIRE
Despite being listed among the three teams to which Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard would like to be traded, the Los Angeles Lakers appear to have fallen out of the race: citing "sources on both sides," Steve Kyler of HOOPSWORLD reports "the Lakers are not in the hunt" to land the Magic superstar. In a radio interview with Colin Cowherd, John Ireland of ESPN Los Angeles said Howard "will not sign an extension with the Lakers" if traded to Los Angeles. Without such a commitment from Howard, the Lakers are no longer interested in acquiring him. The 2012 NBA trade deadline is March 15th.
While it's not clear what soured Howard on the Lakers--though rumors of an ill-conceived sales pitch by L.A. shooting guard Kobe Bryant persist--it appears the Howard Sweepstakes has come down to the New Jersey Nets and Dallas Mavericks, the other two teams to which he said before the season began he'd like to be traded. The Magic, obviously, hope to re-sign their all-time leading scorer, rebounder, and shot-blocker, and continue to have conversations about his future with the team, according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
Howard can become a free agent on July 1st by exercising the Early Termination Option in his contract; alternatively, he can decline that option and remain with the team through the 2012/13 season, and enter free agency in July 2013.