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Dwight Howard Rumors: Lakers Want Contract Extension First

While the Dallas Mavericks have been steadily improving their talent level over the last week, they've been doing it while still keeping an eye on 2013 and the two biggest prizes -- Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum.

The two centers are still being discussed in trade negotiations between the Orlando Magic and the LA Lakers, but Howard's impending free agency is still a major sticking point:

But while Howard has gotten most of the press, the real decision-makers could be Bynum and his people. With Brooklyn out of salary cap room, the Lakers might be willing to roll the dice on acquiring Howard while counting on their tradition as well as the addition of Steve Nash to keep him long-term.

However, Orlando couldn't possibly make that same gamble with Bynum, not when they don't have much to entice him to stay with the Magic long-term. So if Bynum isn't willing to work out an extension, it doesn't seem likely that Orlando would deal Howard to the Lakers.

That, in turn, would increase the Mavericks chances of going after both centers in free agency next year, especially if Howard winds up in Houston.

For all the latest news and notes on the Mavericks free agency plans, stay tuned to the SB Nation Dallas story-stream as well as Mavs Moneyball.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.