The Cavaliers have remained in trade talks with the Lakers and Magic, but little progress has been made and no deal is remotely close to being concluded.
ESPN.com reported on Wednesday that the Cavs have moved ahead of the Rockets as a facilitator in a deal with the Lakers and Magic, but a league source briefed on the talks maintained Wednesday this is all a leverage tactic to get the Rockets to up their offer for Howard.
A source with knowledge of the Lakers' plans confirmed Tuesday in Las Vegas that any talk of progress in trade talks regarding Howard was incredibly premature.
The Rockets remain the only team in the league with both the assets and desire to acquire Howard themselves. The Lakers need a third team to get something done because of their cap constraints and lack of desirable assets and the Nets are out of any trade talks until the middle of January.
The Rockets, meanwhile, still haven't signed any of their three first-round picks from last month's draft, hoping to at least include some -- if not all -- in a future deal for Howard. Once the players sign their rookie contracts, they cannot be traded for 30 days.
The Cavaliers to this point have not seemed inclined to include any of their young players in any potential deals. That includes Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller and reigning Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving.
Cavs general manager Chris Grant did leave Las Vegas summer league this week earlier than expected, as ESPN.com reported, but it was so he could return in time for the surgery on Irving's fractured right hand. It had absolutely nothing to do with any trade talks moving forward, a league source said.
In an intriguing twist, the Rockets were believed to be incredibly high on Zeller, whom the Cavs selected 17th overall. They had three picks in the middle of the first round, and had two chances at him before the Cavs traded up to No. 17. Yet they never selected him.
The belief of at least one front office official involved in the trade talks is that the Rockets were selecting players the Magic liked in an effort to get a deal done.
The Cavs first surfaced as a potential home for Bynum when he recently listed Cleveland as a destination he'd consider when his contract expires at the end of the season. It would be stunning for a player to leave the Lakers and sign in Cleveland and the report was widely dismissed initially on the simple basis that the Cavs are one of the handful of teams that have the cap space to sign him.
In truth, Bynum and Cavs coach Byron Scott have a close, personal relationship that has grown over the years as a result of their mutual ties to the Lakers. One source with knowledge of Bynum's thinking said Bynum respects Scott as a coach and could be intrigued by the Cavs' up-and-coming roster as opposed to the Lakers' collection of aging stars.
Bynum's ties to Scott should leave everything open to consideration, but at this point, there isn't much substance to any of the trade negotiations.