Fans were subjected to two seasons' worth of speculation that LeBron James would sign with the Knicks before James bolted 1,000 miles south to Miami. For the better part of two years, Howard has been tied to what is believed to be his desired destination: the Nets, who move to Brooklyn next season.
Anything can happen between now and the offseason, however. Howard has made the situation more complicated by alternating between insisting he wants to stay in Orlando and saying he wants out, enticing every team with salary cap space or young talent to trade.
The Lakers are never afraid to trade away franchise pieces, offering center Andrew Bynum for Howard, but trading Lamar Odom to Dallas made a deal with the Lakers less attractive for the Magic. Plus, everyone saw how the Lakers' reported trade for Chris Paul worked out.
Some people have had fun imagining Howard on the new-look Clippers. Howard, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Paul would bring fans out of their seats with alley-oops, but it's unlikely the Clippers are willing to gut their roster when acquiring Howard would just make it more difficult to sign the Clippers' existing star players down the road.
These complicating factors could make the Mavericks the dark horse in this race. Just about everyone except Dirk Nowitzki comes off the books for Dallas after this season, and owner Mark Cuban is not the type to sit idly while his opponents bulk up. Howard may indeed end up playing with current Nets guard Deron Williams, but it might not be in Brooklyn. Williams is from The Colony, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, and is also a free agent at the close of the season.