The Nets and Magic reached an impasse Wednesday in their efforts to salvage a trade proposal that would send Dwight Howard to Brooklyn, league sources told CBSSports.com.
Having already moved forward with plans to finalize a contract extension with their own center, Brook Lopez, the Nets were anticipating Wednesday's breakdown in trade talks.
"As currently constructed," Magic GM Rob Hennigan said of Brooklyn-Orlando trade discussions, "there's not much there."
Hennigan, meeting with the media at Orlando Summer League, described trade discussions with the Nets as "stationary." He said he spoke with Howard Wednesday and characterized the conversation as "business-like." As for reports that the organization had told Howard it had suspended its efforts to trade him, Hennigan said, "That's not accurate."
Asked whether Howard still wants to be traded, Hennigan said, "I don't have an answer for that."
The basic point: The Magic are not interested in any of the options Brooklyn can currently offer for Howard, and the Nets are not interested in holding up the rest of their plans to shore up the roster around Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace.
Hennigan was careful not to say Wednesday that the Magic had suspended trade talks on any other front, nor did he say that the Magic would not listen to future proposals from the Nets. In fact, a league source briefed on the positions of both front offices told CBSSports.com that Orlando management would "answer the phone" if the Nets came forward with new proposals.
However, Lopez signed a four-year, $61 million extension with the Nets Wednesday and will be off the trade market until Jan. 15 -- effectively taking the Nets out of the Howard sweepstakes until the February trade deadline.
Without Cleveland involved as a third team to facilitate more salary-dumping for the Magic, the framework of the Nets' various proposals would have involved sending a signed-and-traded Lopez to Orlando along with three first-round picks for Howard and the onerous contract of Jason Richardson, who is owed $18.6 million over the next three years. None of it was appealing enough to cause Hennigan, on the job not even a month, to relinquish the best center in the game.
Nets GM Billy King finalized details of Lopez's extension in Los Angeles Wednesday with Lopez's agent, Arn Tellem. The two sides agreed on the same length Lopez could get in an offer sheet or via a sign-and-trade, though slightly more money due to the 7.5 percent raises the Nets could offer vs. 4.5 percent from another team.
The Charlotte Bobcats expressed interest in signing Lopez to an offer sheet, but the odds of Lopez signing with the Bobcats for the same length and less money than the Nets offered were exceedingly slim.
"I have a better chance of signing a max offer sheet with Charlotte than Brook Lopez," one high-profile agent said Wednesday.
If Lopez signed an offer sheet and the Nets matched, he could not have been traded for a year without his permission and could not have been traded to the team that signed him to the offer sheet for a year, period.
With Lopez off the trade market, the Magic will be left to hope for a better offer from the Nets in February than the ones they've turned down in the past week, or find another place to send Howard without assurances that he will sign an extension there. Howard, it would seem, needs to come up with another list.
In other words, our long, national Dwightmare is far from over. It's just taking a 20-second timeout.
The Nets had placed a deadline of sorts on the Howard proceedings Wednesday, with a league source telling CBSSports.com the team needed "closure" by the end of the day. That was partly a function of the timetable to re-sign Lopez, and partly tactical. During their pursuit of a trade for Carmelo Anthony in 2011, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov abruptly announced in a news conference that he'd ordered King to end negotiations with the Nuggets. The Nets and Nuggets later re-engaged, however, and the then-New Jersey franchise came close to agreeing on a trade for Anthony with Cleveland, ironically, as the third team.
Anthony, of course, wound up exactly where he wanted to: New York. But the circumstances are vastly different; the Magic face no real threat of losing Howard for nothing until the February trade deadline. And unlike the Knicks with Anthony, the Nets will not have cap room to sign Howard as an unrestricted free agent next summer.
The team that has expressed the most willingness to trade for Howard without a long-term commitment has been the Rockets, one of several teams the Magic continued to engage in trade talks Wednesday. Coincidentally, Houston's belief that Howard could be persuaded to stay after spending a year in the organization may have been emboldened by the same strategy that was successful with the Nets and Deron Williams, who they acquired from Utah against his will and this week signed to a five-year, $98.8 million contract to stay in Brooklyn.