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Dwight Howard Rumors: New Jersey Nets, Dallas Mavericks the Front-Runners to Land Orlando Magic Center, According to Report

In an interview with the Boston radio station WEEI, Yahoo! Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski said he believes the New Jersey Nets and Dallas Mavericks are the front-runners to land Orlando Magic star center Dwight Howard in free agency. The Nets will have the salary-cap space to sign him outright, while Dallas can clear space by using the amnesty clause on Brendan Haywood and shedding the salary of Shawn Marion via trade.

"Do you see [Maverickss owner] Mark Cuban telling everyone how great Shawn Marion is, he's All-Defensive Team, why doesn't anybody appreciate Shawn Marion?" Wojnarowski asked during the interview. "Because he's trying to get his contract off [...]" Wojnarowski says Cuban hopes to lure Howard and Nets point guard Deron Williams to Dallas, teaming them with Dirk Nowitzki to form another Western powerhouse. Either outcome would pair Howard and Williams, two close friends.

During training camp, the Magic granted Dan Fegan, Howard's agent, permission to discuss trades with the Nets, Mavs, and Los Angeles Lakers. Of those teams, only L.A. must trade for Howard in order to acquire him, meaning the Magic have no real leverage in trade discussions with Dallas and New Jersey.

If the Nets were to make a trade offer for Howard, it'd certainly include fourth-year center Brook Lopez, who has yet to play this season after breaking his foot in a preseason game. However, Lopez could return to the court as soon as Saturday, reports Andy Vasquez, giving New Jersey the opportunity to showcase the Stanford product's skills before the trade deadline.

But such a showcase may not matter. In early February, longtime Magic beat writer Brian Schmitz said the Magic "don't want Brook Lopez, healthy or otherwise." The only trade involving Howard the Magic will make is with Los Angeles for Andrew Bynum.

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