Wednesday morning, just about every Magic fan awoke to the story plastered on ESPN's front page.
The Nets are coming. They are determined. And they have something Dwight might want -- Deron Williams and a large market -- and the assets potentially to give Orlando to make it worthwhile.
The deal, which according to Marc Stein and Chris Broussard was Brook Lopez, two first round picks for Howard and Hedo Turkoglu, was quickly shot down as pure rumor. At least that is what they said. Billy King of the Nets said that he has not chatted with the Magic since February and Otis Smith said the team is not prepared to trade Dwight Howard right now, although it is something the team will have to explore depending on what Howard says when Smith finally meets with him.
"I think you have to look at everything," Smith told Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel.
"I don't think you can take anything out of consideration. I think, one, you have to talk to your player first. We have to figure out where his head is, not where everyone thinks his head is, and just more figure out where he wants to be. And then you have to make the best decision of what's in the best interests of the franchise. That's how I've always went about it: to make the best decision that's in the best interests of the Orlando Magic.
"I think you have to wait and leave all that up in the air. I don't think you can say you will or you won't [trade] at this point, because you don't know what you don't know. I can speculate based on what I read and hear, but that's really not fair to Dwight and it's not fair to us. So you have to have a conversation with him about what he wants to do, and then you have to make the best decision that's in the best interests of the franchise, as always."
There is a lot we don't know at this point when it comes to Dwight Howard. We don't know what options would be available to Howard through extend and trades in the new collective bargaining agreement. We don't know whether the Magic would trade Howard somewhere he would want or wait for the best package available. We don't even know what Dwight Howard really wants -- and it appears Howard will at least test the market rather than sign an extension.
Those are a lot of question marks surrounding this whole issue. Simply, perhaps too simply, it is too early to tell what Howard and the Magic want to do. Otis Smith has had only one day to speak with Dan Fegan, Howard's agetn, and cannot even speak with Howard outside of short pleasantries. There will be time next week when Smith will gauge where Howard stands and make plans for his team.
Likely in that conversation, Howard will say he doesn't know what he wants to do and that he will play as hard as he can for the Magic. You hope Smith can get a better answer than that, but likely Howard is going to continue to straddle the line as long as he can.
There are a few deadlines that Smith is going to be fighting. And Howard's desire to leave will play a big part in which deadline Smith has to make.
The new collective bargaining agreement has set a December 31 deadline to extend players and have them retain their "Bird Rights" in extend and trades. This means if Howard wants to make the most money he can while not playing in Orlando, he has to be out of here before 2012. Waiting longer than that severely limits the money Howard can make and how long he can extend his contract if he is traded.
The next deadline is obviously the trade deadline, which should be set for some time in March.
Orlando right now is in no hurry to make a move. The team certainly will not do anything until it talks to Howard face-to-face and weighs what he wants to do. Smith said it in his interview with Robbins, he is going to do what is best for the Magic.
Right now, the best thing for the Magic is to try and improve the roster and win a championship. That part will be difficult, but it is not impossible. And that has to be the focus for the moment.
Howard can obviously change those plans if he lets his desires be known. I am not convinced he knows that quite yet.
Until Howard makes a decision though, teams are going to be innundating Otis Smith with calls with trade offers. And Smith is taking the right approach in this time of uncertainty. If a deal knocks his socks off, he has to think very hard about accepting it. If not, he has to keep working to improve his roster.