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brooklyn nets

Howard Trade Imminent (Until Tomorrow, Anyway)

Is it safe?

One thing in this polarized country that all Americans can agree upon: Dwight Howard needs to just get traded already. The center's vacillations on whether or not he wanted to be traded, whether or not he wanted his coach fired, which teams he wanted to go to, which teams he didn't ... the whole thing has taken up so much of the NBA's oxygen over the last year-plus that we're begging someone to just take him off the Magic's hands already so we can all move on with our lives. So, yesterday, it became that much more likely that the team that's going to end up with him will, in fact, be the Brooklyn Nets.

The first person to dig up the increasing possibility that the Nets' attempts to trade for Howard might happen was the Knicks Blog's Tommy Dee, but CBS's Ken Berger was right behind him, and Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski ended up making it officially unofficial: The Nets are very close.

Word is that the Nets are "rapidly overtaking" the Los Angeles Lakers as the team most likely to trade for Howard, and one of the reasons is Steve Nash. For weeks, the Nets' only advantage has been that they're the only team Howard has said he'll re-sign with. But now they have more: The Lakers' package is becoming less valuable. The Lakers traded their 2013 and 2015 first-round picks in the Nash trade, and because the NBA doesn't allow teams to trade away first-round picks in consecutive years (a rule Knicks fans know extremely well by now), they can't send their 2014 or 2016 picks to the Nets either. That suddenly makes their package look comparatively weak, especially considering Andrew Bynum (quite understandably, really) won't commit to re-signing with the Magic if he's sent to Orlando in the Howard trade. Which means the Lakers might be out.

That means the only other competitor is the Houston Rockets, and the Magic are said to actually prefer Brook Lopez to the Rockets' offer of essentially everyone on their roster. Which means ... holy cow ... could this really happen?

Well, the Nets are doing their part, supposedly upping their offer at every opportunity. The sticking point right now is, of all people, Kris Humphries, who would need to be re-signed by the Nets and then traded for salary cap considerations. The most likely scenario is getting the Cavaliers to take him for a year, along with a draft pick or two, as long as the Nets agree to take back one of Orlando's ugly contracts in the deal, most likely Hedo Turkoglu's. (BALL.) There are still some other possibilities, but the basics of the deal, the only thing that means anything, really, is that Howard is now more likely to play for the Nets than any other team.

And Orlando, as sick of this as the rest of us, wants to take care of this sooner rather than later. Which means this could happen this week. This could happen today. This could happen this morning. (According to this report, the Magic are meeting right now.)

Or it could be delayed, like everything else involving Howard, and we're never going to escape Howard purgatory.

For now, though: It is very possible that the Nets will open their new building in Brooklyn with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, and Dwight Howard. Holy crap. Stay tuned. This might actually happen.

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Photo: Christian Petersen/2011 Getty Images