Update: Nets Reportedly Out Of Dwight Howard Sweepstakes

[UPDATE: Well, I guess we should’ve seen this coming. With so much undecided and up in the air today, it was merely a formality that Brooklyn’s “take us or leave us” deadline would come and go without a move. Now various reports coming from Marc Stein, David Aldridge and Jarrod Rudolph say Orlando closed off talks while Chris Sheridan says New Jersey has closed off trade negotiations with Orlando because they were content to move forward with a nucleus of Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries and MarShon Brooks. Either way it appears likely a deal between the two sides won’t happen. According to Brian Windhorst, Magic GM Rob Hennigan is denying that Orlando has shelved their trade talks with the Nets, and also disputes the claim that he told Howard the same thing earlier today.]

All of the speculation, all of the rumors, all of the back and forth, the near kisses, the makeup sex, the gift-sending and ring-buying could soon be over. Nearly 12 months in the making and it could all finally be finished today. Are you sick of Dwight Howard trade talk, having spent roughly 22 hours of real time blowing up ESPN’s Trade Machine? I think nearly everyone is, and has. By the end of Wednesday, Howard, if reports are to be believed, will either be part of a potential new powerhouse with the Brooklyn Nets, or the team will pull itself out of the sweepstakes. There’s only so much wooing everyone can take before it’s time to move on, and Brooklyn has reached the breaking point.

CBSSports.com reports the Nets will move on without the best center in the game if a deal cannot be consummated today:

While the Orlando Magic continued weighing a multitude of trade options for Dwight Howard, the Brooklyn Nets are poised to move on without the All-Star center if a deal cannot be consummated Wednesday, league sources told CBSSports.com.

With the Nets’ longtime pursuit of Howard complicated by the withdrawal of Cleveland as a third team to facilitate the deal, the Magic’s ongoing conversations with the Rockets, Lakers and Hawks gained momentum.

“Everything is in play,” one league source said of Orlando’s options.

Everything includes going through with a differently calibrated deal with the Nets, Howard’s preferred destination and the only team with which he has signaled a willingness to sign a long-term deal if traded. But with the Nets working on finalizing a max extension with center Brook Lopez Wednesday, their position has been made clear to the Magic: Trade Howard to Brooklyn by the close of business Wednesday, or the Nets will move forward without him.

“Closure needs to come today,” said a league source briefed on the Nets’ plans.

A lot is riding on this for the Nets, and not all of it even has to do with Howard. Brooklyn and Lopez are closing in on a deal to give the young center a max contract extension, and according to Yahoo! Sports, they are simply ironing out the final details of the $58 million dollar contract: whether it will be four or five years, and figuring out protection on the back end for Lopez’s right foot. He broke it twice in the past year.

[UPDATE: Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports the sides have agreed to a four-year deal for a guaranteed $58 million, and are now discussing the fifth year.]

Once that contract is signed, Lopez can’t be traded until December, making it virtually impossible for the team to acquire Howard (unless the sides agree to wait it out, which might blow up the Internet and turn Magic games into potential angry mosh pits).

Lopez is a legitimate 7-0, and is still just 24 years old. He’s one of the better low-post scorers in the league, having averaged at least 18.8 points in each of the past three seasons. But he’s injury prone (despite doctors having cleared him to return for the start of training camp), a very average defender and an AWFUL rebounder. He averaged 3.6 a game last year, roughly 1/4 as many as Howard. Protocol calls for everyone to lock up productive, young centers, especially when you have a star player (Deron Williams) and a new fanbase (New York City) that you need to please. But giving a max extension to Lopez comes with some great risk. The Nets say they’re comfortable keeping Lopez if they can’t get Howard. I say they’re like hypebeasts paying double for the new Jordans because they don’t want to be shut out. But that’s the hole that’s been dug for them, in part by Howard’s own iffy decision making.

ESPN’s Marc Stein also recently tweeted that both Portland and Charlotte have told Lopez they will offer him a four-year max offer sheet, which could put the entire process in a bind, and handcuff Brooklyn.

Howard could end up in L.A. for Andrew Bynum in a complicated three-team deal between Orlando, Houston and the Lakers. We’ve heard Atlanta is trying to assemble parts to make a deal. We already saw one potential blockbuster trade fall apart last weekend after Cleveland pulled out at the last second. Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski says talks between the Nets and Magic were briefly re-engaged today.

When will it end?

What do you expect to happen?

Follow Sean on Twitter at @SEANesweeney.

Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.

Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE