An executive who has had discussions with the Magic regarding Howard said Orlando only will trade the star center in a deal that is great for the franchise. The executive said this has been Orlando's stance for the past "week or so."
Another executive who has talked with Orlando said he thinks the Magic may start the season with Howard and wait until the February trade deadline to move him.
Each executive left the door open for posturing, noting that the Magic may be bluffing in hopes of coaxing better offers out of opposing teams. But the overriding sense is that Howard may not be moved for weeks, if not months.
The Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets both covet Howard, but each team has come away from trade discussions thinking the Magic -- at least for now -- are not interested in trading the six-time All-Star, according to sources.
Howard has been steadfast in his desire to be traded since the end of last season, telling new Magic general manager Rob Hennigan last month in their first face-to-face meeting that he wanted to be traded to the Brooklyn Nets.
But with Howard under contract for next season, the only firm deadline Orlando faces is next season's trade deadline.
While the angst between the Magic and Howard is real and sizable, the franchise also realizes that Howard is fickle, impressionable and prone to changing his mind.
When Howard first requested a trade to the Nets this past December, it seemed unfathomable that he would waive his opt-out clause. But that's exactly what he did in March.
So with a new front office and soon a new head coach -- widely expected to be Jacque Vaughn -- the Magic may believe Howard could change his mind again before next season's trade deadline.
If the Magic start the season with Howard, his preferred destination of Brooklyn once again becomes a possible landing spot. The Nets recently signed center Brook Lopez, who would presumably be the centerpiece of a Brooklyn-Orlando trade for Howard. Lopez is not eligible to be traded until Jan. 15, a full month before the trade deadline.
So if Howard doesn't sign a contract extension with Orlando before the deadline -- and if the Lakers or Rockets haven't been able to acquire him by then -- the Nets would perhaps emerge as the front-runner once again.
Then again, Orlando may also be banking on the fact that neither the Nets nor the Lakers, whom Howard has told confidantes he would sign with long term, will have the salary-cap room to sign him outright to a max deal next summer when he becomes a free agent.