The Los Angeles Lakers, Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers are working on a trade that would send Dwight Howard to L.A., Andrew Bynum to Cleveland and some level of cap relief to Orlando.

In order to understand where we are now, it’s important to remember how we got to this point. Heading into this week, there were two major, well-known obstacles preventing the Lakers from acquiring Howard.

The first obstacle was that, clearly, L.A. lacked the pieces to do a straight-up, two-team deal for Orlando’s disgruntled big man. Magic management has made it abundantly clear that they aren’t really looking for a proven, capable player in return for Howard – they’d rather follow the Oklahoma City Thunder model of rebuilding through the draft.

That means, in return for Howard, all they really want is to unload their bad contracts (Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson) plus some solid draft picks. L.A. can sort of oblige the first request, but the team has no picks to send back.

To complicate matters further, even if Magic brass did want a proven player, Bynum reportedly refuses to give them any assurances that he’d re-sign next summer. Translation: worst case scenario, Orlando could end up being back in this very same predicament next year.

Obstacle No. 1 is just as much of a hindrance now as it was in the past.

However, heading into this week, there was also a second obstacle that L.A. brass had to overcome: Howard’s refusal to sign a contract extension with anyone but the Brooklyn Nets. According to some reports, that reluctance was part of the reason why the Lakers were hesitant about absorbing all of Orlando’s awful contracts. (Of course, there were other reports that Howard’s unwillingness to re-up played zero role in that – believe what you will.)

Well, it appears as though that second problem may have worked itself out while nobody was paying attention. As reported by Jarrod Rudolph of RealGM and confirmed by ESPN’s Chris Broussard:

Sources: Dwight Howard is ready to join Lakers. If traded to Los Angeles Howard will re-sign long-term with team after 2012-13 season.

— Jarrod N Rudolph (@JRudolphSports) July 19, 2012

Sources confirm @JRudolphSports report that Dwight Howard is ready to join Lakers. If traded to LA DH will re-sign long-term with team

— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) July 19, 2012

Now, while that’s admittedly a baby step in the right direction – it’s hardly a gamechanger. The big problem all along hasn’t been Howard dragging his feet about re-upping with L.A., it was what Orlando wanted in return for him. Howard agreeing to an extension is good, but that’s not what will make or break this potential trade. ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne indicated this much in her latest report:

The Lakers have not been notified of any change in Howard's thinking as of late Wednesday night, a league source told's Ramona Shelburne, but had always figured he would commit to staying with the franchise once he experienced being part of a championship culture. As reported Tuesday night, the Lakers have been willing to make a trade for Howard without assurances he would sign an extension.

The more interesting bit from that piece was this:

Sources also told Broussard the Lakers are ready and eager to trade for Howard -- with a package built around Andrew Bynum -- but that Orlando is holding up the deal. Orlando, while willing to trade Howard, is not in a rush. The Magic will wait until they get a deal they like.

Again: the Lakers would have done a deal regardless of whether they got assurances or not. That wasn’t the major stumbling block preventing this transaction from happening. It was a pitfall, but not the pitfall.

So, where does everyone stand now? Well, because there is no feasible deal out there that L.A. can make sans a third team, it leaves Kupchak and Co. scrambling to find a trading partner. And, as we already knew heading into this week, the only two teams who have expressed any interest in helping the Lakers acquire Howard are the Cavaliers and Houston Rockets. Via the ESPN report:

The Lakers have talked with Cleveland and Houston, both of whom have interest in Bynum, about being a third team to help facilitate the trade. Both clubs have the draft picks Orlando wants in any deal.

Houston, of course, is still trying to work out their own trade with Orlando for Howard. And it’s worth noting that, they, unlike L.A., don’t need a third team’s involvement. That’s huge. Three-team deals are very difficult to do – two-team trades are much easier to pull off. If they feel like giving away the farm for Howard when he refuses to re-sign with them isn’t in their best interest, though, the Rockets might be willing to settle for Bynum.

Cleveland is also reportedly enthralled with the idea of pairing up Kyrie Irving and Bynum, but it remains to be seen if the somewhat gun-shy Dan Gilbert would actually pull the trigger on that move; Gilbert been all talk so far this summer.

This is going to be an interesting few days. Not because a Howard deal is imminent, but because it’ll show us exactly how hard Magic brass is looking to move their guy. The deals are on the table, the ball is in their court, and the entire NBA is watching with bated breath to see what’s going to happen.

Your move, Orlando.

Get more Lakers news and rumors on Twitter: @agroberman

(Kudos ESPN)

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