Another day, another episode in the soap opera starring Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic. For now, it appears, the long-running series is on hiatus.
Sources say the Magic have decided to hold on to their disgruntled star and hold out for a better offer. So any talk of Howard to the Lakers or Howard to the Rockets — or Howard to the moon, for that matter — is dead for now.
While teams might be willing to revisit discussions — and might even have done so by the time you read this — it’s pretty clear the Magic have yet to receive a proposal they’ve liked.
That makes sense when considering Howard is the game’s best center — and that teams have been trying to get him on the cheap. Now, the Magic seem to be saying, up the ante or don’t bother calling.
Meanwhile, other teams are saying such a philosophy is fine, provided the Magic aren’t bothered by the fact they could lose Howard for nothing in free agency at season’s end. But Orlando would have have to spend another season tolerating the circus that surrounds him.
If that’s OK by the Magic, it appears, it’s OK by everyone else.
On one hand, new Magic general manager Rob Hennigan can’t be blamed as he’s holding out hope the team might actually receive equal value in return for its prized big man. That’s how the NBA used to work, when talent was traded for talent — and when possessing assets such as draft picks and salary-cap space meant little.
Nor did players use free agency as some sort of leverage to land exactly where they wanted. After all, free agency was — and still is — set up so players can earn the most by re-signing with their current team. Then again, players didn’t seem to have as many friends on opposing teams as they do now.
Yes, Shaquille O’Neal left the Magic for the Lakers, and, yes, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar angled for a trade out of Milwaukee long before that. But those were earnings-based decisions. Now, stars leave teams for no other reason than they feel as if it’s their God-given right.
So give the Magic credit for refusing to be taken advantage of — even if it means banking on the idea Howard will change his mind, again.
In the meantime, fans of teams supposedly in the mix for Howard, or even on the outskirts of a potential deal, will have no choice but to feel frustrated and wait for the new season. Not the NBA season, but the season when new episodes of this soap opera hit the airwaves.
* With most of the top free agents signed, teams are now clamoring to find help at bargain-basement prices. Most-mentioned potential targets include Carlos Delfino (Bucks), Carl Landry (Hornets), Delonte West (Mavericks) and C.J. Miles (Jazz). Veterans such as Derek Fisher (Thunder) and Michael Redd (Suns) are also seeking new homes. Fisher has been linked to the Rockets, Cavaliers and Magic, while Redd has been linked to the Bulls and Hawks.
* Former Bulls guard Ronnie Brewer was also on that list but signed a one-year deal with the Knicks on Tuesday.
* Free-agent swingman Mickael Pietrus is unlikely to return to the Celtics. He supposedly has overseas offers, but word is that he’d like to join a team with real playoff potential. At the same time, his agent told a Boston radio station that Pietrus will not take a veteran’s minimum. Good luck.
* Malcolm Thomas, entering his second NBA season after going undrafted out of San Diego State, is another free agent who’s viewed as a potential steal after a strong performance with the Bulls’ summer team. Thomas is 6-foot-9 and spent part of last year with the Spurs. The Bobcats, Clippers and Bulls are all said to have shown interest.