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LOS ANGELES LAKERS RENEW TALKS ON DWIGHT HOWARD
Fri, 20 Jul 2012 02:30 AM EDT

While the L.A Lakers continued to engage the Magic in discussions to acquire All-Star center Dwight Howard, there was no face to face meeting between Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak and Orlando GM Rob Hennigan, a league source said.

The Lakers remain committed to chasing Howard even without assurances he’d sign a long-term extension with the club. What’s unclear to both sides is whether Magic would accept Andrew Bynum without assurances he’d sign a long term extension.

Cleveland and Houston Rockets, both of whom are under the salary cap and rich in prospects and future draft picks, have engaged the Magic as potential 3rd-team facilitators. However nothing is imminent on that front and the most significant dialogues have been at once between Orlando and L.A.

The Rockets have had Howard at the very top of their wish list for months and have made moves to chase him, from collecting 1st-round picks in the draft to utilizing the amnesty clause on Luis Scola. Nevertheless Houston’s Howard pursuit could come to a halt if the Chicago Bulls do not match the Rockets’ offer sheet to restricted free-agent center Omer Asik, worth $25 million over three years. Signing Asik along with the acquisition of Jeremy Lin would eat up a lot of the cap space Houston had cleared to take on additional salary in a Howard contract.

Like Orlando’s protracted and unfruitful talks with Brooklyn a few weeks ago, this latest round of talks is starting to hamstring business round the league, multiple sources said, and there’s a growing chance the Los Angeles Lakers or one of the other teams would simply stroll away from the talks at some specific point this week.

If a Howard trade isn’t possible, the Lakers would quickly turn their attention to resuming extension talks with Bynum and re-signing forward Jordan Hill. If Bynum consents to an extension, it would start the clock on a deal for Howard in pretty much the same way Brooklyn’s extension with Brook Lopez did.

Lakers officials are ready to meet Wednesday to discuss their negotiating strategy with Bynum before reaching out to his representative but are well aware that there won’t be much wiggle room once the negotiations begin; Bynum will expect a max contract extension. Baseball spreads

While the Cleveland Cavaliers have an interest in Bynum, sources expounded, they also have a tremendous amount of assets and pliability over the next 3 years with the ability to absorb contracts, 3 first-round picks and 2 second-rounders, as well as vet big man Anderson Varejao and young forward Tristan Thompson.

The Lakers, meanwhile, have so far been immune to taking on the types of tiring deals Orlando is looking to unload in a deal for Howard. That position has only been reinforced, sources declared, by their acquisition of Steve Nash 2 weeks ago.

Howard has not yet relented on his position that he wouldn’t commit to signing an extension with the L.A Lakers before a trade. However sources claimed the long-rumored unease with Kobe Bryant is “overblown” and will not be a decisive concern.


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