Dwight Howard Trade Rumors: Brook Lopez Injury Gives Lakers More Leverage

Thanks to Brook Lopez, the Los Angeles Lakers might actually come in top-of-the-heap in at least one good race—the one for Dwight Howard.

The big man for the New Jersey Nets, long rumored to be the centerpiece of any deal that would bring DH12 to the Garden State, will undergo surgery on his right foot on Friday after suffering a stress fracture during Wednesday's preseason game against the New York Knicks.

Aside from his youth and his size, Lopez's most valuable asset had been his health. He'd yet to miss a single game during his three-year NBA career while posting per-game averages of 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks.

The Orlando Magic will have their eyes fixed firmly on Lopez's foot, at least in relation to Andrew Bynum's knees. The Lakers are thought to be willing to offer Bynum and Pau Gasol to bring Howard to LA, though they'd prefer not to part with Gasol if possible. With Lopez's longevity now in question, they may not have to.

As devastating as knee injuries can be and often are, foot injuries among big men can be, and often are, even worse. Just ask Bill Walton and Yao Ming, who both saw their brilliant careers brought to an end all too soon by foot problems.

Certainly, nobody would mistake Lopez for Walton or Yao. The fourth-year center out of Stanford is a quality center, to be sure, but lacks the sort of spectacular ability (or potential thereabout) that Bynum possesses.

And now that Lopez has a major blemish on his bill of health, the gap of durability between him and Bynum may have closed just enough to land Howard in Purple and Gold before too long.

LA's case was helped further, however minimally, by the 26 points and 11 rebounds Bynum dropped on the Clippers in the Lakers' preseason finale.

Either way, don't expect the Magic to move Howard anytime soon. GM Otis Smith will likely wait until Bynum is back from his five-game suspension and...

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