The Hawks no longer appear to be in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reports that it’s now a two-team race for Howard between the Nets and the Lakers with Brooklyn in the lead. Center Brook Lopez would be the centerpiece of a deal with the Nets while the Lakers would send center Andrew Bynum to Orlando.
Update: Wojnarowski reports that in the latest proposal the Magic would send Howard, Jason Richardson and Earl Clark to the Nets in exchange for Lopez, Damion James, Shelden Williams, Luke Walton and up to four first-round draft picks.
The Hawks had been in discussions with Orlando regarding Howard since before the draft. They can offer the Magic better players than New Jersey in exchange for Howard, including Al Horford and Jeff Teague. The Hawks also picked up an extra first-round draft pick as part of the trade that sent Joe Johnson to the Nets.
But Atlanta has been reluctant to make such a deal because Howard has given no indication he’s willing to commit to the Hawks (or any team other than Brooklyn) beyond next season. Without that assurance, Atlanta is unwilling to trade major pieces and draft picks and also take back one or more of Orlando’s onerous contracts with the risk that Howard would bolt in free agency after one season.
According to multiple reports, the Nets are trying to complete a complicated trade for Howard that could include two other teams and as many as 14 players. Howard, the former Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy star, made it more difficult for Orlando to trade him when he exercised his 2012-13 contract option at the last trade deadline.
Howard opted in after he had requested a trade in December, when the Hawks were among the teams engaged in serious trade discussions with Orlando’s since-fired GM Otis Smith. Howard renewed his trade request in April and last week told Yahoo that if he’s sent to any team other than Brooklyn he would play out his contract and explore free agency next season.
Brian K. Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel reported that the Magic are in “no hurry” to trade Howard. But other reports have indicated the Magic are ready to trade Howard as soon as possible and begin rebuilding after months of drama surrounding their franchise player.
After shedding Johnson’s contract, the Hawks are in position to offer Howard a maximum free agent deal next summer. But the team that has Howard under contract to end the 2012-13 season will hold his “Bird Rights” and be able to offer a contract that’s worth about $25 million more than any other team.
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat