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It appears that the Nets remain in the driver’s seat for Dwight Howard -- but they may not be getting the Magic center by Thursday’s NBA trade deadline.

The latest from ESPN.com’s Ric Bucher is that the Nets are still at the top of Howard’s wish list, and he’s content to play out the season in Orlando.

That would benefit the Nets because they wouldn’t have to sacrifice assets like Brook Lopez (restricted), MarShon Brooks and their two first-round picks in the 2012 draft to get him.

The Magic are still hopeful they’ll be able to retain Howard, and, according to Bucher, are willing to go as far as to allow him to pick a new coach and GM for the team, something Orlando has refuted. They are also trying to acquire a difference-maker that would help convince him to stay.

But with just a couple days remaining before the 3 p.m. Thursday deadline, that appears unlikely since the Magic don’t have assets that other teams want.

The Nets are in great position to land Howard because they’re moving to Brooklyn and the $1 billion Barclays Center. And getting Howard would almost certainly convince Deron Williams to re-sign.

The Nets have reportedly explored adding Boris Diaw’s $9 million expiring contract in an effort to clear more cap space for the summer of 2012.

A league source told ESPN NewYork.com there wasn’t much truth to those reports, which had Jordan Farmar ($4.25 million player option for 2012-13), Johan Petro ($3.5 million ’12-13) and Houston’s lottery-protected first heading to Charlotte.

But it wouldn’t be surprising if the Nets made a move like that to clear as much cap space as possible, knowing they’re going to have to fit D-Will’s max (he’s expected to opt out like D-12), Howard’s max and Lopez’s raise -- assuming everything works out.

The Nets only guaranteed commitments for 2012-13 are Anthony Morrow ($4 million), Petro ($3.5), Brooks ($1.1 million) and Jordan Williams (762K). Like Farmar, Shawne Williams has a player option ($3.1 million).

The contracts of Mehmet Okur ($10.9 million), Kris Humphries ($8 million), DeShawn Stevenson ($2.5 million), Damion James ($1.2 million), Shelden Williams ($992K) and Sundiata Gaines ($854K) are all expiring and will come off the books.