According to ESPN's Marc Stein, who posted this story at a red-eyed 2:35am EST, the unthinkable has happened: The Atlanta Hawks have been involved in the mega-trade talks with the Orlando Magic for Dwight Howard.
Sources told ESPN.com that the aforementioned Hawks, meanwhile, engaged Orlando in trade talks for Howard earlier this month with an offer believed to be headlined by $124 million guard Joe Johnson and swingman Josh Smith. You have to figure that the Magic, though, would insist on Al Horford if such discussions ever got serious.
The Hawks are not on Howard's short list of preferred trade destinations alongside the Nets, Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks, even though Atlanta is his hometown. That's presumably because Howard wants no part of Atlanta's perpetually unsettled ownership situation. The Hawks nonetheless took the risk of pursuing Howard anyway and, according to sources, felt like they were making some semblance of progress before the Magic shut down talks.
The Hawks took the risk, as they should. This is about winning a championship and Dwight Howard gets you closer to that no matter who you are trading to get him. This is also about filling seats, and D12 would certainly do that in the star-hungry ATL.
Cap-wise, I am sure the trade, as stated above, does not work, much less adding in another 8-figure contract like Horford's into the mix.
Besides all of that, the rumor above is tasty for multiple reasons:
1. It means the Hawks are not letting Howard pass on by without at least trying to get him. This is big for public opinion--it's a security blanket that at least your franchise tried to make it happen. Former Hawk GM Pete Babcock always told me that teams discuss superstars all the time, but are never discussed publicly for obvious reasons---and they rarely ever happen. Still, to be involved, that is...something.
2. The ownership situation is still an issue. Michael Gearon can get out there and try and change public opinion because he says so, but it will be tough to shake the opinion that, after the prolonged lawsuit and subsequent failed sale attempt, this is a lame duck ownership group and the situation unsettling for top players until something comes to a head.
3. They got beyond the "phone screen" pass on a process that would have dealt Joe and Josh for Dwight Howard. So you're telling me there's a chance....
There's no way that the Hawks make this deal, especially if it involved Horford, if they didn't know--not feel---know, that they could sign Howard to an extension. They might do a Danny Manning type deal if it was just Joe/Josh, but I really don't believe they would risk it, even for Dwight---even though I would.
Exit Question(s): Ok ATL, your team has been mentioned prominently in trade talks for one of the marquee players in the NBA---what do you think---and how far would you go to get Howard? Any other interesting angles in this story for you?