Portland in the Howard running?

AP Photo/DayLifeDraft night is getting a close inspection in Orlando. This will be Rob Hennigan’s first chance to show Magic fans what the team is going to be about. It is also the time when assets are flying about and those highly coveted, and extremely cheap, draft picks go flying out the door. Many suspect that if the Magic are going to deal Dwight Howard, it might come at Draft night.

Houston is hoping for that. It is no secret the Rockets are willing to rent Howard and have already made an agreement to pick up a third draft pick in this year’s first round. Houston is hoping to package those three picks and return a top-10 pick and assets to the Magic for Howard’s services, even if for just a year.

There will surely be other teams who emerge if the Magic decide to part ways with their franchise center. One may already be emerging.

Gerry Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times speculates Portland could be in position to make a move for Dwight Howard. The Trail Blazers have two top-half picks (Nos. 6 and 11) along with several young players they could package and offer — plus a past interest in Hedo Turkoglu, if you remember from the summer of 2009 — the Magic if they are interested.

There have been no other indications that Portland is interested in renting Howard — his heart still seems set on Brooklyn, although that possibility is looking dimmer and dimmer — but this mere suggestion and Houston’s reported maneuverings to get into position for a major trade show what it is going to take to pry Howard away from Orlando in a trade.

It is going to take high draft picks, a package of young players and, likely, a willingness to take on Hedo Turkoglu, Chris Duhon or Jason Richardson’s hefty contracts. Portland does not seem like a possible trading partner because the Magic would surely insist on acquiring LaMarcus Aldridge in the deal. Unless Howard is ready to commit long term to Portland, that probably is not going to happen.

The other hitch is that it is still uncertain when Orlando will make a move concerning Howard.

New general manager Rob Hennigan promised a process-based approach in his opening press conference, and he will not rush into a move. Hennigan told the Orlando media Wednesday that he had spoken with Howard, but that he was going to keep the conversations he had with Howard and his agent private for the time being.

“What I can tell you is were in discussions with a lot of different teams about a lot of different things,” Hennigan said. “What I can tell you is, especially this time of year, teams are motivated to try to explore any and all avenues they can to try to improve their team, and we’re doing the same thing.”

Hennigan would not give a firm timeline for the team making its decision on Howard.

Barring an outright, “I will never play in Orlando again” from Howard, it seems Hennigan is going to set up his process to evaluate potential deals and help the franchise move forward. Knowing how much Howard has waffled in this whole process, it does not seem likely Howard is quite at the “TRADE ME THIS MINUTE” moment.

Right now, Orlando is waiting to see how the chess board looks before making its move.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily