The biggest news on the NBA’s opening day of free-agent signing was what didn’t happen.
Disgruntled Orlando center Dwight Howard stayed put. Any trade sending him to Brooklyn — his preferred destination, according to many reports — won’t happen this summer.
Nets center Brook Lopez, a restricted free agent, was supposed to be the main player headed to the Magic.
But with the possibility looming that Lopez could sign an offer sheet with Charlotte or Houston, Brooklyn decided to do the deal itself and inked Lopez to a reported four-year, $60 million contract.
By rule, Lopez cannot be traded until Jan. 15. So a Howard-to-Brooklyn deal could be revisited before the trade deadline, but new Magic management seemed intent on ending the Dwightmare saga this week.
Houston and the Lakers may still be interested in pursuing the all-star center.
Who cares, right? Howard hasn’t captured anyone’s imagination in the past few years, although his unwary takeover of coach Stan Van Gundy’s news conference in the spring might have been the funniest moment of last season.
Look at it this way: Maybe this alleged four-team deal involving Orlando, Brooklyn, Cleveland and the Clippers wasn’t close to happening. But as long as the Magic and the Nets were holding trade discussions, there was a chance Super Team II could have moved into the new digs on Flatbush Avenue.
Brooklyn tried to field a lineup of Howard, Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace and a power forward to be named later.
Since Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov has pockets deeper than his nickel mines, this squad could have been a legitimate challenger to Miami’s string of titles. And it still could happen down the road.
So where would that leave the Bulls? Next season will be tough with Derrick Rose recovering from knee surgery. They’re already starting to retool the roster and have a difficult challenge ahead.
Miami spent just $4 million this summer and landed two former all-stars in Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. Everyone seems to be looking for the easiest path to a title these days.
So maybe it’s time the Bulls dove into the Howard sweepstakes. Even though both players finished last season with injuries, Rose and Howard should be a legitimate title-contending tandem for the next decade.
One problem: Chicago is not on Howard’s wish list. If he refuses to sign an extension, Howard could become a free agent in 2013 and walk away.
How realistic is that scenario, though? Howard’s not going to walk into an introductory news conference at the United Center and tell everyone he can’t wait to leave.
After all of Howard’s missteps of the past year, Chicago is exactly what he needs. America will be clamoring for a team that can knock off Miami’s Power Trio, and it wouldn’t hurt Howard’s image to join forces with a more popular superstar.
If Howard did become a free agent in 2013, the Nets, Knicks and Lakers wouldn’t have cap room. Dallas and Atlanta could be possibilities, but those teams would have trouble pairing him with a young star of Rose’s caliber.
The Bulls seem to have enough assets to offer Orlando. Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Richard Hamilton and Charlotte’s first-round pick for Howard and Hedo Turkoglu is a reasonable offer.
If they do it fast, the Bulls could keep Kyle Korver to help space the floor.
The flaw in this scenario is Orlando wanted to create cap room in a deal with Brooklyn. That’s why Kris Humphries supposedly was headed to Cleveland and Marshon Brooks to the Clippers.
The only way for the Bulls to offer cap relief now in a two-team deal would be to include Korver’s nonguaranteed contract, which could save the Magic $4.5 million.
If the Bulls made the trade and Howard departed as a free agent, at least they’d have cap space left in his wake.
Do the Bulls really want to count on the 2013 class of free agents, which includes Chris Paul, Andrew Bynum, Josh Smith, Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, David West, Kevin Martin and J.J. Redick? Maybe not.
Howard would be a gamble. But with players migrating to Miami, a desperate measure is worth considering.
ŸThe major NBA deals executed Wednesday already were common knowledge. Steve Nash was traded to the Lakers. Tim Duncan re-signed with San Antonio. Atlanta traded away two longtime starters.
Among the new deals, center Roy Hibbert decided not to ink an offer sheet with Portland and instead re-signed with Indiana for the same amount, four years for $58 million.
Former Hornets center Chris Kaman agreed to a one-year deal with Dallas. The Mavericks also sent forward Ian Mahinmi to Indiana in a sign-and-trade for Darren Collison and Dahntay Jones.
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