Just when you thought all of the Dwight Howard drama might finally be behind the Orlando Magic, news comes out that it’s only just beginning. Such is the fickle nature of NBA free agency and trade rumors.
And if there’s any merit at all to the latest developments in Howard’s ongoing quest to bolt Central Florida for Brooklyn, it may be time for the All-Star big man to reconsider the practicality of his exit strategy.
According to multiple reports Wednesday, trade talks between the Magic and the Nets have fallen apart, with both teams looking to move on after ending their pursuit of a deal that would send Howard to join Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace in Brooklyn.
Magic general manager Rob Hennigan was careful not to say that a discussion with Brooklyn couldn’t be revisited, dismissing any report that talks are off as false. But the 30-year-old, first-time GM also conceded that when it comes to the Nets’ offers so far, there hasn’t been a lot to like.
“Currently, where we stand, I think that the parameters that we talked about are in a little bit of a stationary position,” Hennigan told reporters in Orlando Wednesday afternoon, referring to the reported deals that the Magic and Nets had previously discussed. “And currently, as it’s constructed, I’m not sure there’s anything to really continue to discuss (with them).”
And when you consider that the Nets, who are reportedly nearing a max contract extension with Brook Lopez, aren’t exactly flush with tradeable assets, the thought that they could come back with a new, more appealing offer for Orlando seems unlikely — whether it’s now or on Jan. 15, when Lopez could be traded again.
Additionally, Brooklyn won’t have the cap space to sign Howard outright as a free agent next summer, so Howard, whose only constant sentiment over the last eight months has been his desire to play for the Nets, has been left to wallow in his own tears over his failed power play with the Magic.
But being a baby won’t help Howard get out of a mess that being a baby got him into, so he might as well stiffen his upper lip and make the most of the situation he’s unintentionally resigned himself to.
There are still 29 NBA teams that would love to have Howard on board, including the Magic (though that ship has likely sailed). Orlando could feasibly make a deal with any of them, so the best thing for Howard to do right now is come to grips with his own reality, broaden his horizons and — if he wants some semblance of control over his future — embrace the thought that there are other good situations out there.
One of them is in Los Angeles, where the Lakers would love to pair Howard with Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash in an effort to get Nash his first ring while adding to Kobe’s impressive collection of championships.
Originally listed among Howard’s three preferred destinations when he originally requested a trade in December, L.A. is one of the league’s most storied franchises, and the addition of Howard to their already-stacked lineup would immediately make them a championship contender out west.
A Howard-Andrew Bynum swap has long been considered the best possible return for the Magic in a deal for their star player, and the Lakers, one would think, would be willing to give up a promising, if brittle, center for the league’s best big man. But both camps have reportedly been reluctant to consummate a deal without Howard and Bynum both agreeing to extensions first, and unless the big men change their minds, it’s questionable whether it ever happens.
There are some other issues at play when it comes to Howard potentially signing with the Lakers, too.
First off, Howard has spent his entire career being compared to Shaquille O’Neal, and leaving Orlando for Los Angeles, as Shaq did in 1996, would only lead to more unwanted comparisons. Dwight also might still be dealing with a case of hurt feelings stemming from a February conversation with Kobe in which Bryant reportedly informed Howard that he wouldn’t be “the guy” if he came to Los Angeles.
That said, Howard would be a perfect fit in Tinseltown if he can put his dreams of Brooklyn and his ego aside, and his chances of winning his first championship are as good, or better, there than they would have been with the Nets.
However, if L.A. isn’t the place for Dwight, there are other options out there, too.
Dallas was originally listed along with the Lakers and Nets on Howard’s trade list, and after losing Jason Kidd and Jason Terry — and losing out on Williams — in what has been a disastrous free agency thus far, they’d love to be able to pair Howard up with Dirk Nowitzki. The Mavs signed former All-Star Chris Kaman to a one-year deal Wednesday, but his reported $8 million deal would be quickly forgotten by Mark Cuban should Howard come calling.
Then there’s another Texas team in Houston that has long shown interest in trading for Howard. Earlier this week, the Rockets were mentioned in rumors surrounding a three-team trade that would have sent Howard to the Lakers and Bynum to Houston, but they’d love even more to have Howard all to themselves. Houston GM Darryl Morey had already expressed interest in acquiring Howard without the guarantee of an extension, and with Howard’s preferred destination now seemingly out of the picture, he may be even more inclined to make it happen.
Atlanta has also been discussed as a possible landing spot for Howard. An Atlanta native, Howard has never expressed a particular interest in playing in his hometown, but the Hawks have Howard’s childhood friend, Josh Smith, under contract, along with another All-Star big man in Al Horford and a serviceable point guard in Jeff Teague. After shedding Johnson’s suffocating salary in their trade with Brooklyn, Hawks GM Danny Ferry has all kinds of money to spend, and he could possibly afford Howard and another star in Atlanta, should Howard decide that’s where he wants to be.
Then there are the fringe teams, good clubs that would be made better — perhaps even championship-caliber — with the addition of Howard to their roster. Teams like Chicago and Oklahoma City and, perhaps, even Boston, haven’t been mentioned as possible destinations for the six-time All-Star and may never enter into the mix. But now that Howard’s Brooklyn dreams are quashed and these teams are on an even playing field with the rest of the league for his attention, perhaps it’s time they get in on the game too.
Basically, what it comes down to this: The Magic are going to trade Howard sooner or later, and for some reason, they seem willing to cave to his demands, so long as his demands are reasonable. Howard has already made one failed attempt at bullying his way to Brooklyn — making him, perhaps, the first superstar to fail to force a trade — but it’s not too late for him to still control certain aspects of his own destiny.
By re-opening his list of preferred trade destinations to include a few more teams, Howard can still put himself on a championship contender in a big market, and he can do so while splitting relatively amicably from the Magic.
It won’t totally repair the damage he’s done to his image, but it won’t hurt either, and after eight months of back and forth with Orlando, this is the closest either will find to a win-win situation.