Some believe it could be a distraction if Dwight Howard sticks around and even begins next season with Orlando.
A distraction from what? An epic battle with Washington for third place in the Southeast Division?
The Magic aren’t going anywhere next season. They don’t even have a coach, and their pool of candidates for the job doesn’t include one guy who ever has been an NBA head man.
Forward Ryan Anderson is coming off being named the NBA’s Most Improved Player. His reward from Orlando is not to return. Instead, he’ll go to New Orleans in a sign-and-trade deal, with Anderson receiving a four-year, $35 million contract and the Magic getting back raw center Gustavo Ayon.
One hopes there’s a Lowe’s or Home Depot near Magic headquarters. Because they’re rebuilding.
With that in mind, why is there any urgency for the Magic to deal their star center? The trade deadline isn’t until February.
ESPN.com has reported a proposed four-team deal in which Orlando would ship Howard to Brooklyn, with big man Brook Lopez being the key piece arriving from the Nets. In the process, the Magic would have to give Lopez, a restricted free agent, a maximum contract so he could be included in a sign-and-trade.
Yes, that would be the same Brook Lopez who averaged a microscopic six rebounds (along with 20.4 points) in 35.2 minutes in 2010-11 (he played in just five games last season because of a foot injury, so we’ll give him a break on the 3.6 rebounds he averaged then). And, yes, he’s a center.
Perhaps Orlando Sentinel writer Brian Schmitz noted it best. Regarding new Magic general manager Rob Hennigan, Schmitz tweeted, “If Hennigan pulls trigger on this deal, he is the Nets’ nominee for Executive of the Year.’’
According to ESPN.com, here would be the other pieces in a deal also involving Cleveland and the Los Angeles Clippers: The Magic also would receive Luke Walton, Damion James, Shelden Williams, Armon Johnson and three first-round picks, two from the Nets and a lottery-protected one from the Clippers. The Nets also would get Jason Richardson, Chris Duhon and Earl Clark.
The Cavaliers would end up with Kris Humphries, Quentin Richardson, Sundiata Gaines, a Nets first-round pick and $3 million from Brooklyn. And, when the dust settled, the Clippers would have MarShon Brooks.
Yes, the Magic would shed the salaries of Duhon and the two Richardsons, who combine to make $12.1 million next season and $12.9 million in 2013-14. But, say what you want about Lopez, there’s nothing inspiring about the other four players the Magic would receive. And there are no certainties with the first-round picks.
From the looks of this deal, Hennigan must be patient. If need be, play it out through the summer. Maybe even take it into next season. It sure couldn’t hurt.
If he hasn’t done it already, Hennigan might want to pick up the phone and talk to Denver Nuggets executive Masai Ujiri, who was in a similar spot with Carmelo Anthony two years ago. Anthony, like Howard, had asked to be traded. And Ujiri, like Hennigan, was thrown into his situation as a rookie general manager.
For Ujiri, it worked out well because he exercised patience. Anthony ended up being dealt to New York just before the trade deadline in February 2011 along with Chauncey Billups and other pieces for a package that included Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov, Raymond Felton and a first-round pick.
One possible difference is the Nuggets were able to pit the Knicks and Nets against each other to raise the price of what they got back. Howard apparently now only wants to go to Brooklyn.
But last season, before Howard agreed not to pick up his 2011-12 contract option and push his free agency to next summer, he also had the Lakers and Dallas as approved destinations. It’s understandable why the falling-apart Mavericks apparently have fallen off his list, but it seems hard to believe Howard couldn’t be persuaded to go to the Lakers and stick around for a spell.
You’d think Howard might have noticed what has happened in the past four decades after star big men have headed to the Lakers. After picking up Wilt Chamberlain (one), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (five), Shaquille O’Neal (three) and Pau Gasol (two), they won a combined 11 championships.
The main piece the Magic would want from the Lakers for Howard is center Andrew Bynum. It is a bit dicey in that Bynum can become a free agent next summer.
But it might be a better gamble to pick up Bynum as a rental than it would be to commit so much money to Lopez. Interestingly, during the 2010-11 season, Bynum averaged exactly twice as many rebounds per 36 minutes (12.2) as Lopez (6.1).
Regardless, the Magic should exercise patience. Even if they were to wait six months, it’s hard to imagine they couldn’t get a deal at least as good as the one now on the table.
As for this Howard stuff all continuing to be a distraction, big deal. If the Magic make the trade that has been proposed, there might not be too many fans showing up at the Amway Center to distract opponents.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter@christomasson.