Nets’ Lopez out 3 weeks with sprained ankle. Now what for Howard trade?

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We warned you that Brook Lopez’s ankle sprain early in the third quarter Sunday was pretty bad. You know it is not good when the coach will not address it after the game, saying they need to wait a day.

The good news is that X-rays came back negative, but the bad news is that he will be out three weeks, Ken Berger reports at CBSSports.com. That is better than it seemed at the time, so good news that there is nothing seriously wrong (like the broken foot that kept Lopez out for the first 32 games of the season).

But what about the Dwight Howard trade? Lopez was to be the centerpiece of the Nets offer to the Magic and now he will be injured through the March 15 trade deadline. New Jersey (well, Brooklyn) is Howard’s preferred destination. So, now what? Berger says it is moot until Orlando decides to trade him.

The Magic have been telling teams over the past month that they intend to keep Howard beyond the trade deadline, but rival executives are dubious. Howard has not publicly or privately given any indication that he wants to stay with the Magic beyond this season, and Orlando could lose him as an unrestricted free agent without getting any assets in return under new collectively bargained guidelines governing sign-and-trades.

If they are going to move him, New Jersey and Lopez still seem to be the frontrunner — a standard sprain is not going to scare a team off. If this were more serious it would be one thing, but if this is a sprain (and the Magic doctors would want to confirm that) it should not be a deal stopper. The Nets could take on Howard and the toxic contract of Hedo Turkoglu, if the Magic go that route and try to rebuild.

But basically, there is no change on the Howard front and will not be until the Magic change their minds.