The Cleveland Cavaliers may have inched ahead of the Houston Rockets as a facilitator in a potential trade that would send Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers, sources said Wednesday.
One source familiar with the talks, though, cautioned to not make too much of that shift just yet.
The Cavaliers would land Lakers center Andrew Bynum for a package of draft picks and veteran power forward Anderson Varejao, according to one league source. The Lakers would receive Howard for Bynum. The source said this was merely the framework of a deal being discussed.
Cavaliers GM Chris Grant was in Las Vegas watching summer-league action but made an unplanned return to Cleveland, sources say, and is not expected to return. In the frenzy of anticipating if, when and where Howard might be dealt, such otherwise innocuous events have been enough to inspire massive speculation that a deal is near.
The Lakers have engaged both the Rockets and Cavaliers in their attempt to land Howard, sources say, because those two teams, a) have interest in acquiring Bynum, and, b) have the requisite salary-cap room to accept larger player salaries than they send out in a deal.
The complicating point for any deal to be completed, sources say, is whether Bynum and Howard agree to extensions with their next team. Sources close to Howard say that as of now, after mistakenly depriving himself of free agency this summer by opting into the final year of his deal with the Magic, he has no intention of doing so again.
ESPNLosAngeles.com reported the Lakers remain committed to pursuing Howard even without assurances he'd sign a long-term extension with the club.
The Rockets have had Howard at the top of their wish list for months and have made moves to pursue him, from collecting first-round picks in the draft to using the amnesty clause on Luis Scola.