It Is Now Crunchtime (We Think)

Feb 22, 2012; Newark, NJ, USA; Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard (12) is defended by New Jersey Nets center Brook Lopez (11) at the Prudential Center. Orlando Magic defeat the New Jersey Nets 108-91. Mandatory Credit: Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE

With Avery Johnson telling beat reporters that the Nets "top priority" now is is "getting Brook re-signed and getting him in a Nets uniform.” and Adrian Wojanarowski and Ken Berger both reporting that the Nets have opened talks with Lopez on an extension, it now appears that the Nets' pursuit of Dwight Howard is at a crossroads.

Woj tweeted, "Brooklyn’s started talks with RFA Brook Lopez on extension, sources tell Y! Could be to stay with Nets or used in sign-and-trade with Magic."

Either of course is possible but the timing of Johnson's comments and Woj's tweet, a little more than an hour and a half apart, indicates that the Nets COULD have given the Magic a deadline.

Meanwhile, Ken Berger writes that the Nets are working to "assemble a package including at least three first-round picks to land the All-Star center." Berger said the Magic are more interested in finding a place to dump one or more of their long-term contracts, Hedu Turkoglu and/or Jason Richardson. Berger also confirmed the start of talks with Lopez.

The teams have reportedly been in serious negotiations with little progress since Howard told Orlando GM Rob Hennigan of his desire to be traded to Brooklyn last weekend. Various reports have put the Nets chances at somewhere between 30 and 50 per cent, but in any case, the Nets feel they need to get other free agency issues dealt with, and that would be difficult if not impossible without a resolution of the Howard talks.

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