Nets Emerge (Again) As Leader In Trade Talks For Dwight Howard; Deal Is Not Seen As "Imminent"

ATLANTA, GA - FILE: Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic against the Atlanta Hawks during Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on April 22, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. It was reported that the Orlando Magic have taken Dwight Howard off the market citing that none of the offers were worth pursuing December 14, 2011. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

For the third time in less than eight months, the Brooklyn Nets have emerged as the leading contender in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, according to both Yahoo! and ESPN. Whether they will emerge as the winner remains to be seen as the Magic are placing major demands on the Nets, including Brook Lopez, three draft picks and cap relief, i.e. a willingness to take on their worst contracts.

Adrian Wojnarowski reports "Brooklyn has pushed into overdrive in offering up trade scenarios and options for the Magic, sources said. For now, Orlando prefers Nets restricted free-agent center Brook Lopez as a centerpiece player over having its pick of the Houston Rockets' roster, sources said." Woj later added, "no deal is imminent" and Peter Vecsey tweeted, "Nets do not have deal in place for DH. Much maneuvering on tap ... First 10 scenarios unacceptable."

Chris Broussard and Brian Windhorst report similarly, " the Nets and Magic are cautiously optimistic that the Cavaliers will help them facilitate a three-way trade that lands Howard in Brooklyn."

Although reports out of Orlando had Billy King flying there Monday, Woj reports that instead the Nets GM is headed to Las Vegas to watch Deron Williams. David Aldridge adds that King has an ulterior motive: "sign Deron Williams at the first moment he's allowed--9:01 p.m. Vegas time Tuesday, 12:01 EDT"

Key to the deal remains a sign-and-trade involving Lopez, who Woj reports would receive a max contract of $58 million over four years if sent to Orlando (and $75 million if retained by Brooklyn.) Beyond that are the draft picks -- "the Magic would be compensated with as many as four future first-round draft picks" as well as another pick -- or Marshon Brooks, as Broussard and Windhorst report -- to persuade the Cavaliers to take on Kris Humphries in a second sign-and-trade. Beyond Cleveland there may be other suitors willing to join the fray.

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