By David Aldridge, TNT analyst
Posted Dec 9 2011 11:41AM - Updated Dec 9 2011 6:33PM
The Orlando Magic are contemplating filing tampering charges against two unnamed NBA teams for illegal contact with its franchise center, Dwight Howard, according to a league source.
The Magic believe at least one of the teams have had contact with Howard -- who reportedly wants to be traded -- as recently as Thursday. If the team substantiates that belief, it will immediately file charges with the league, the source said.
Magic chief executive officer Alex Martins says that Orlando has not filed tampering charges against any other team for any illegal contact with star Dwight Howard.
Martins says that the rules against tampering are clear and that if they had been violated in any way the team would pursue the abusers to the fullest extent of NBA rules. But as of Friday nothing has been filed with the league office.
Howard has not publicly indicated that he wants to be dealt, and privately, the communications between Howard, his agent, Dan Fegan, and the Magic have produced mixed signals. At points, Howard indicates he might want to stay with the Magic, who have become a championship contender on his watch -- only the Lakers and Celtics have won more regular season and playoff games over the last four years. But at other points, he indicates dissatisfaction with the makeup of the team. Orlando has had a contract extension on the table for Howard for some time, but he has -- like other star players in recent years -- not signed it.
ESPN reported early Friday that Howard will request to be traded to the New Jersey Nets. The source indicated that as of Friday morning, neither Howard nor his representatives had made such a request. NBA training camps opened Friday.
A trade to New Jersey would pair Howard with All-Star guard Deron Williams -- who, like Howard, is expected to opt out of the final year of his contract, not sign the extension offer on the table from New Jersey and become a free agent. In both cases, opting out is the financially smart move. Under the rules of the just-ratified new collective bargaining agreement, taking an extension on the existing contract could cost both players more than $25 million; signing a new deal after becoming a free agent would be worth more than $100 million.
The Magic, the source said, will not allow a repeat of the Shaquille O'Neal departure from Orlando to Los Angeles in 1996, when O'Neal walked as a free agent and the Magic were left with nothing. If the organization ultimately decides it has no choice but to trade Howard, it will do so. But the Magic will decide where he goes. The source said a reported proposed package by the Nets of center Brook Lopez and Draft picks for Howard is not at all interesting to the Magic.
The Magic, the source said, will not let Howard dictate the terms of where he wants to go.
"This will not be another Shaq situation," the source said. The Magic will "do what's in the best interests of the organization" and will not be left with nothing.
The Howard developments come a day after the NBA nixed a potential trade of four-time All-Star guard Chris Paul from the Hornets to the Lakers in a three-team deal that would have sent forward Pau Gasol to the Rockets and forward Lamar Odom to New Orleans. The Hornets would have received forward Luis Scola, guards Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic and a 2012 first-round pick from Houston.
A source directly involved in those talks said Friday morning that the Hornets were not planning to appeal the nixing of the deal, as ESPN reported Friday. Rather, the Hornets will try to see if sweetening the current deal in some way would make it more acceptable to the league, which currently owns the Hornets while it seeks a permanent owner who will keep the team in New Orleans. The Hornets also have several other possible deals on the table for Paul, and could go forward with one of those if teams involved in those deals make enhancements to their offers, the source said.
New Orleans' management, the source said, is determined to make a deal for Paul, who reportedly was not going to show up for the first day of the Hornets' camp. Like Orlando, the Hornets will not allow Paul to play out the final year of his deal, become a free agent next summer and leave with the team getting nothing in return.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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