ORLANDO FL - FEBRUARY 08: Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic reacts to a foul during the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Amway Arena on February 8 2011 in Orlando Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and or using this Photograph user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Right now the media tries any rumor on for size in hopes of the Dwight Howard saga moving toward completion. Meanwhile the Orlando Magic bide their time hoping to get as much as they can and having little incentive to trade Dwight until training camp roles around. Don't expect much chatter about the Hawks and Dwight in the meantime. The two main reasons are we aren't media darlings and we have limited options as to what they can offer the Magic, for now. Can't do much about media love, but there are fundamental dates when our offers can change.
Early August - Signed rookies can be traded 30 days after they sign so the exact date varies. John Jenkins should be available to be included August 11th. The real significance of this date is that the Houston Rockets can start making tangible offers with their 3 rookies.
September 10th - The easing of trade restrictions occurs 60 days after a trade. The Hawks have a lot of expiring contracts but there is a 60 day period in which an acquired player cannot have his salary combined with other individuals for purpose of a trade. For instance, we can trade Devin Harris's 8.5M salary in a deal and receive back between 5.7M and 12.7M in salary. We can't use it with any other contracts though. Dwight Howard makes 19.5M so you have to send 14.54 to 24.5M to match just him not including their bad contracts. Until September 10th the only players that can be used are Al Horford, Josh Smith, Jeff Teague, Zaza Pachulia, and after August 11th John Jenkins. After September 10th, Anthony Morrow, Johan Petro, Jordan Williams, and Devin Harris can be used in deal together.
End of September - Training camps begin. Many people theorize that Orlando wouldn't want to start the season with the circus of Dwight Howard in training camp. While the potential exists for Dwight's presence be disrupting, Orlando GM Rob Hennigan must realize that this season is scuttled anyway. If that's the case then an uncomfortable training camp shouldn't rush a trade decision that will shape the next 5 years of the Magic franchise.
End of October - The season starts. Does Orlando want to go into actual real games with Dwight Howard in uniform? The answer may not be as obvious as the media has theorized. Dwight Howard had back surgery at the end of last season. Showcasing a fully-healed Howard may be the Magic's best tool to get better trade offers.
January 15th - Brooklyn can re-enter the Dwight Howard dealings if they chose because Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries become trade eligible. This date marks the greatest risk to any pursuit from the Hawks because if the one team that Dwight wants to sign with can re-enter the fray then Dwight likely won't hit the market next summer.
Late February - NBA trade deadline. Because of changes in the sign and trade rules whichever team has Dwight as of the trade deadline is the only team that can offer him 7.5% raises and a 5th contract year. A team like Houston gambling on acquiring Howard without a pledge to resign is trusting on this amount of money to matter when Dwight decides on his future. Here's the problem with this strategy: if you take on all the bad contracts that Orlando is trying to bundle then your team would essentially be the same roster that Dwight has already determined he wants to leave. That's a big gamble unless you like the plan B of a sign and trade with Brooklyn. As long as Houston is around to make an offer you can ignore rumors that the Magic might not trade Howard at all. The best scenario for the Magic would be a trade netting draft picks and then have Howard leave that team in free agency improving the quality of the picks. That might be the best plan for the Hawks as well.