ORLANDO, FLA.: Let’s start here — after listening to Dwight Howard this weekend and chatting with folks around the league, I don’t believe he’s going to be traded before the March 15 deadline. And if he is, Cleveland is not on his list of preferred destinations.

But maybe it should be.

Howard has given his agent, Dan Fegan, three teams with which he’d sign a long-term extension: the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers and New Jersey Nets. The Lakers and Mavericks are understandable, but the inclusion of the Nets, who are moving to Brooklyn, N.Y. next season, is proof Howard is simply most interested in market size right now.

That’s a shame, because the Cavs have enough assets to compile a competitive offer and a budding superstar in Kyrie Irving who, by next season, could be better than anyone Howard has ever had for a teammate with the Magic.

The inside/outside combination of Irving and Howard would be deadly, particularly since championship franchises are built with point guards and big men. The Cavs would have two of the best in the league — and both under the age of 27.

Irving’s 34-point Most Valuable Player performance in Friday night’s Rising Stars game was his emergence into the NBA’s spotlight. The rest of the league is beginning to see what Cavs fans have known for months — Irving is on the cusp of superstardom.

But has he proven enough in so little time to sway a proven superstar like Howard into committing long term?

The Cavs have an owner in Dan Gilbert who is just crazy enough to find out. If they could convince Howard to pick up his player option for next season, the Cavs would have one full year to win him over with their culture and convince him to stay.

Is any of this likely to happen? Absolutely not. But in a vacuum of strictly basketball, without market sizes and personal preferences blurring the lines, the Cavs have the assets to get something done.

Howard wouldn’t come cheap, but Irving is the only untouchable on this roster. Any potential deal would likely begin with some combination of Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson and multiple first-round picks.

The Cavs have all of their draft choices at their disposal, plus upcoming first-round picks from the Miami Heat (2013 and 2015) and a conditional first-round pick from the Sacramento Kings.

If the Magic demanded Hedo Turkoglu’s massive contract be included, the Cavs could swallow it by including Antawn Jamison’s $15 million expiring contract, although Turkoglu would chew up most of the Cavs’ cap space for next season.

As it stands, they would have enough cap space next summer to pay Howard a max salary and still have significant money left to spend on free agents or in other trades.

It’s probably all fantasy, but at the very least, it illustrates the type of cap space and assets the Cavs have in front of them. This will be a big summer for a franchise on the rise — even if it doesn’t include a 265-pound center.

Ratings rising on TNT

Irving’s MVP performance Friday was watched by 2.73 million people, making it the most watched Rising Stars game in the 18-year history of the event, according to TNT. It surpassed the 2004 game that featured LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

As for losing any disgruntled fans over the lockout, forget it. TNT set a record for viewers last season, then said on Saturday it is experiencing double-digit growth again in ratings during this shortened season.

No bonus picks, Stern says

Commissioner David Stern said Saturday that the NBA has not considered rewarding teams that lose a superstar with compensatory draft picks and will not discuss it anytime soon.

The Cavs, of course, could have benefited from that idea after losing James to the Heat in free agency. Now the Magic are contemplating what to do with Howard, but Stern made it clear the league has no interest in giving teams that lose stars extra picks.

At one point, when asked about Irving, Stern used the Cavs to further his point.

“You make decisions,” Stern said. “Carmelo was traded by Denver, Deron Williams was traded by Utah, the Cavs went a different way,” Stern said. “For that they got two first-round draft picks and a competitive young team that’s looking better. There are different ways to go, and that’s the ecosystem that is the NBA. I think it’s great that the Cavs have done that and I’m delighted that Dan Gilbert hasn’t sent me any emails this week.”

The last remark was in clear reference to the trade the league blocked that would’ve sent Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers. Gilbert made headlines when an email he wrote to Stern complaining of the deal was leaked to the media.

Other notes from Stern’s news conference:

•?He will retire before the recently completed collective-bargaining agreement can be renegotiated in six years. He is strongly endorsing his deputy commissioner, Adam Silver, as his replacement.

•?The league, city of Sacramento and owners of the Kings met Saturday and will meet again Sunday in an effort to get a new arena deal in place. A March 1 deadline to secure financing looms, otherwise the franchise could move to Anaheim, Calif.

•?There are no plans to place a franchise in Seattle. The league is negotiating with a buyer to keep the Hornets in New Orleans. Expansion is not a current option.

•?The league is negotiating to take preseason games to China next season and a couple of regular-season games to London. Two regular-season games previously scheduled for London this season had to be canceled due to the lockout.

Expensive Rose backs adidas

Reigning MVP and Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose confirmed Saturday he has finalized what is essentially a lifetime endorsement agreement with adidas. Yahoo! Sports reported the deal is worth $185 million over 13 years, with enough incentives to push the total value over $200 million.

“I am blessed,” Rose said Saturday before All-Star practice. “The amount is crazy.”

Rose’s deal is believed to be significantly more than what Nike is paying James. Rose and Howard are easily adidas’ top clients.

James said he was happy for Rose.

“When you’re growing up in the inner city, you dream of playing in the league and having your own shoe,” James said.

New rule could remain

The league’s competition committee is recommending to the NBA’s Board of Governors that dress lists remain at 13 beyond this season.

Teams traditionally have been allowed to dress only 12 players, rendering three inactive. But teams have been allowed to dress an extra player this season because of the lockout, and teams have enjoyed the flexibility of the extra player so much that they voted unanimously this weekend to make it a permanent rule.

Check please for dunkers

The list of participants in the Slam Dunk Contest grows more boring and stale by the year, as proven by Saturday’s pool of Chase Budinger, Paul George, Jeremy Evans and rookie Derrick Williams.

Superstar dunkers like James and Howard have long since passed on the contest — James has never done it. But in an effort to rekindle interest, perhaps the league should start awarding bonuses to the winner.

Asked why he has never participated in the event, James said: “I’m not a dunk contest type of guy. I’m an in-game dunker.”

So James was asked what would happen if the winner received a check for $1 million.

“Then I’d reconsider,” James said. “Wouldn’t you?”

Jason Lloyd can be reached at jlloyd@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Cavs blog at http://cavs.ohio.com Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.