Consider this the first step in building a Dwight Howard trade that doesn't involve Brooklyn. It lays the foundation.
RealGM.com's Jarrod Rudolph, known to be very close to Howard and his camp and is considered a reliable source on that end, reports that Howard has come around to the Los Angeles Lakers as a destination and is willing to re-sign with the Lakers in free agency in the summer of 2013.
To put this in perspective, here's how any trade setup has to be configured, factoring Howard's impending free agency next summer:
1. Howard has to verbally commit to re-signing with the trade partner. No team (as of yet) will surrender the trade assets that the Magic want without Howard's consent that he'll stay long-term.
2. The Magic have to get the kind of package they want, which may involve bringing in a third team. Reports surfaced Wednesday that the Lakers had brought the Cavaliers into talks, involving Bynum headed to Cleveland while Anderson Varejao and a package of assets heads to Orlando.
3. The team getting Howard has to consent to the package they'll have to surrender for Howard. This is a bigger deal than it seems. Even with Howard the potential payoff, teams are reluctant to ever overpay for an asset. Unless they're the Knicks. And it's not Jeremy Lin, apparently. Part of this process with the Lakers involves Andrew Bynum, who has to agree to re-sign with wherever he lands. Reports have indicated Bynum is open to re-signing in both Cleveland and Houston, potential trade partners for the Lakers.
4. Howard has to not change his mind about the entire thing before the trade is approved by the league. That's pretty much touch-and-go till the league office sends down the OK at this point.
So the first step to complete a potential Howard trade has reportedly been accomplished, but there's a long way to go. Houston has also been in talks as the third team. Orlando has to set the price on Howard and determine what they want, and from there it will be on Magic GM Rob Hennigan to make that happen. As of yet, the Magic have not committed to what exactly they are looking for, but the package will presumably involve young players, draft picks, and most importantly, for teams to take salary from Orlando.
The big road block there is that Orlando wants to dump Hedo Turkoglu's near-undumpable contract. That remains the next big hurdle in any negotiations.
But Howard agreeing to re-sign removes the risk from the Lakers, at least in terms of Howard's word. He could always not re-sign after committing to do so, but that would be a pretty terrible decision from every perspective.
So we wait to see if Howard's position holds, and if the Lakers can find the salary room for what the Magic want to get rid of, as well as the assets to send back to Orlando.
But for a team that seemed destined to send Howard to Brooklyn for one of the worst trade packages in NBA history, the Magic may just pull off getting a true rebuild set for themselves and the Lakers may get the next great superstar in their storied history.