LONDON — At long last, Dwight Howard got what he wanted.
So did the Orlando Magic. A new beginning for both awaits.
It took four teams, 11 other players, five draft picks and countless rounds of talks over many months, but finally, the Magic decided the time was right to start over without the NBA's best center and end a saga that has dogged the franchise for what seems like an eternity.
Howard is off to play alongside Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles, after a megadeal was worked out Thursday and completed Friday after the NBA reviewed and approved the particulars. As far as the other headliners involved, Andrew Bynum leaves the Lakers for Philadelphia and Andre Iguodala is heading to Denver.
"Are we taking a step back? Absolutely, we are," Magic general manager Rob Hennigan said. "But we're taking a step back with a vision."
The Lakers were set to introduce Howard later Friday in Los Angeles.
"I know L.A. is excited about the deal and rightfully so," Bryant wrote on his Facebook page Friday, before the deal was formally announced and before he and the U.S. men's basketball team played a semifinal game at the London Olympics. "The Lakers landed a piece that will hopefully carry the franchise long after I'm gone. I have spoken to Dwight Howard already and we are locked and loaded to bring back the title."
The Magic, they might not be saying that for years.
And they know it, too.
After an offseason when the Magic fired coach Stan Van Gundy and general manager Otis Smith, they're now truly beginning anew. In 1996, the Magic watched Shaquille O'Neal sign as a free agent with the Lakers. At least this time, when they lost someone with the "Superman" nickname, they got something back.
"Next season, and really subsequent seasons, are going to be about getting better every day," Hennigan said.
Orlando got guard Arron Afflalo and forward Al Harrington from Denver, forward Moe Harkless and center Nikola Vucevic from Philadelphia, and forward Josh McRoberts and guard Christian Eyenga from the Lakers. The Lakers acquired Howard, guard Chris Duhon and forward Earl Clark from Orlando. The Magic also traded guard Jason Richardson to Philadelphia.
Orlando also gets five draft picks over five years.
"There will be no panic," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. "There will be no chaos."
The Lakers pulled off the deal and somehow kept Pau Gasol in the process — something many didn't expect when the Los Angeles first started getting mentioned in the Howard trade mix.
The trade was announced during the Spain-Russia semifinal matchup at the Olympics. Gasol scored 16 points, helping the Spanish team reach the gold medal game with a 67-59 win.
Afterward, that seemed secondary. He was still with the Lakers, and now has the game's most dominant big man alongside him. For a moment, gold-medal talk was pushed aside for NBA title chatter.
"I think it's something that puts us in a position of being an extremely powerful team and a team with all the chances of going for the ring again," Gasol said.
The 76ers got involved in trade talks about a month ago, first reaching out to the Magic to inquire about landing Howard themselves. Not long after realizing that wouldn't happen, the talks grew. And when Denver got involved, the pieces fell into place.
"One of the things we needed to do was we needed to get a post presence, a guy who can score on the low block, give us size, rebounding, defense," said 76ers coach Doug Collins, in London working with NBA as an analyst for Olympic baskeball.
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