10:08pm: Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, speaking with Chris Broussard of ESPN.com tonight, strongly denied that any Howard-Rondo talks have taken place at any time this season.
Kupchak hasn't spoken with anyone else in the Celtics organization either, Broussard also tweets.
9:54pm: A source tells TNT's David Aldridge that there's nothing to the rumored Howard-for-Rondo proposal (Twitter link).
8:43pm: The Lakers and Celtics have engaged in preliminary talks about a trade involving Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo, reports Ken Berger of CBSSports.com. The proposal has yet to gain traction, Berger writes, and Celtics basketball president Danny Ainge would be reluctant to do a deal without assurances from Howard that he would re-sign with the Celtics this summer. The Lakers are also continuing to insist they won't trade Howard, and that's the impression the Celtics have at present, according to Berger.
The trade could be tabled until after the offseason, but a sign-and-trade would only allow Howard to sign with the Celtics for four years instead of five, Berger points out, which would cost him as much as $30MM. It would also preclude the Celtics from exceeding the luxury-tax apron next season and keep them from using their full midlevel exception under new sign-and-trade rules going into effect this summer.
Sources tell Berger that the Nets, Mavericks and Rockets are teams that intrigue Howard as he looks ahead to free agency this summer. Absent from that list are the Celtics, which would seem to make the deal a long shot. By taking back Rondo, who's out for the year with a torn ACL, the Lakers would be throwing up a white flag of sorts with regard to this season, though the Celtics would have to throw in others who make at least another $5.8MM for the deal to work under the league's salary-matching rules. Rondo would also be an odd fit in L.A., considering fellow point guard Steve Nash is the only Laker signed past 2014.
Howard said happiness and the ability to have fun on the court is what he'll look for in a free agent destination, and he said he's not having as much fun as he used to, as Berger notes. While a trade to Boston or elsewhere might not be in the cards before Thursday's deadline, it seems there's a strong chance Howard won't be wearing the purple and gold come next season. The Celtics, meanwhile, could be in for radical changes as Ainge, as he has done in the past, appears open to exploring blockbuster moves to return the team to title contention.