DEERFIELD, Ill. -- It's the rumor that just won't go away. It's the rumor everybody in Chicago wants to talk about.
Is Dwight Howard going to be dealt to the Bulls?
I still say the answer is no.
If Orlando GM Otis Smith trades Howard to the Bulls, the Magic will add another huge roadblock to their path toward becoming Eastern Conference champions in the next decade. With Derrick Rose and Howard leading the Bulls and LeBron James and Dwyane Wade headlining the Heat, how could the Magic sell legitimate championship aspirations to their fan base?
The Magic are in trouble either way and would be in even worse shape if they let Howard walk. But if you're the Magic, why would you deal him to a team you're going to face four times every year? For argument's sake, would a Bulls offer really be that much better than a package any other team could offer?
Let's take a closer look:
Like every other team in the league, the Bulls have an interest in Howard. After all, 26-year-old franchise centers (he turns 26 on Thursday) don't go on the market every day. The Bulls would be willing to deal anyone not named Rose to make a deal happen.
So that deal would have to include Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, because like every other team in the league, nobody wants to touch Carlos Boozer's contract. The Magic would surely ask for Taj Gibson and/or Omer Asik and the draft rights to Nikola Mirotic as well. That would add up to about $27.4 million in salary, and the Magic likely would have to add Hedo Turkoglu to make the trade work.
But the Magic are trying to get younger and cheaper in any potential deal. Why would they take back the contracts of Noah and Deng who, aside from having a combined eight years and over $100 million left on their deals, have had serious injury problems?
You could say the same thing about Andrew Bynum, who likely would be the centerpiece in a Howard-Lakers trade. But Bynum is still just 24 and only has one more year left on his deal before a team option. If the Magic decide they want to shed Bynum's deal a year from now they still could and probably would get a nice combination of pieces in return.
Who is going to want Deng's and Noah's deals if either one goes out and gets hurt again this season? The Magic would be stuck with two albatross contracts, which would be ironic, considering they already have two on their books right now in Gilbert Arenas and Turkoglu.
If Smith decides to unload Howard there is little doubt he would want Howard's new team to take one of those deals. The Bulls would basically have to gut their roster to make the numbers work.
OK, fine. Do whatever it takes to get Howard. Go into the luxury tax. Whatever. The Bulls would finally have their own star-studded trio of Rose, Howard and Boozer to match up with James, Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. Howard gets to play with one of his friends, Boozer, and another in Rose, who he has spent a lot of time with the past few summers working on adidas commercials. He gets to play in a major market and expand his personal "brand," as he's discussed at various times throughout the past year.
This is the dream scenario if you're a Bulls fan. There are still a few major issues, though.
Does Howard really want to live and play in Chicago? ESPN analyst Ric Bucher noted several weeks ago that Howard only wants to play in a warm-weather climate. It makes sense given that Howard grew up in Atlanta and has spent his entire professional career in Orlando. Would he be happy spending the winters dealing with the bone-chilling temperatures in the Windy City?
It may not be a deal-breaker, but if Howard truly does want to get out of Orlando, he certainly will have some say in where he ends up because it's hard to believe any team would deal for Howard without him first signing a contract extension.
To that point, one more thing to consider is whether or not Howard wants to come to a team where he isn't "the man." No matter what Howard would do if he came to the Bulls, he would always play second fiddle to Rose. This is Rose's team. Fans adore him here. Howard enjoyed all the attention and adulation that came to him in Orlando. Would he enjoy being the Robin to Rose's Batman in a new city?
Howard would also be the No. 2 guy with the Lakers behind Kobe Bryant, but how many years does the 33-year-old Bryant have left? He has logged a lot minutes during his career and is entering his 16th NBA season. Rose is still just 23. He's the reigning NBA MVP and is entering his fourth NBA season. He figures to be the cornerstone of the Bulls franchise for at least the next decade. If Howard went to the Lakers, he would fill Bryant's shoes as far as being the main attraction, sooner than later. That really wouldn't be an option for him in Chicago.