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Orlando loss casts shadow over Dwight Howard’s future

Apr 18, 2011, 3:36 PM EDT

Dwight Howard dunks on Jrue Holiday Getty Images

Magic fans don’t want to draw the line connecting the dots. You can’t blame them. But the loss to Atlanta seemed to move those dots toward being in a straight line.

And if things don’t change Dwight Howard could connect them himself and devastate the Orlando franchise.

The starting point is here: every time Dwight Howard rejects talking in any detail about his future free agent plans — he can opt out in the summer of 2012, but rightfully says that is too far away to think about — he falls back on two themes.

One, he really likes Orlando and its fans. Secondly, that he wants to win championships.

You can be sure that part two outweighs part one. He has said as much.

That brings us to Saturday. When the Atlanta Hawks smacked the Magic around pretty good in a win. Howard was a monster — 46 points on 16-of-23 shooting, with 19 rebounds. Jameer Nelson pitched in 27 points on 18 shots.

After that, the remaining seven Magic who played had 20 points on 8-of-34 shooting (23.5 percent). And their defense was about that good as well, with Howard having to block shots and try to clean up his teammates mess.

The Magic need more talent on the roster. Here’s the problem: With the moves the Magic made this year to bring in Gilbert Arenas and Hedo Turkoglu, the Magic are pretty locked into this roster. There is no easy overhaul or shake up. All players can be moved, but the Magic would have a hard time getting someone to take on Arena’s contract and give them a valuable player in return.

Suddenly the idea of the Magic wining a ring with Howard and this unit looks about as daunting as climbing K2.

It’s not just we outsiders who can connect the dots. Nate Drexler over at the Magic Basketball blog wrote this.

I hate to start making LeBron James comparisons from 2009, but this is looking too similar. You’ve got a league juggernaut that has been with the same team since the beginning. He was the centerpiece of a budding organization, the reason for an economy boost in the city, the MVP on a perennial playoff contender, and the owner of zero NBA championship rings….

It’s probably too early to start panicking and burning jerseys, but losing to Atlanta in the state-of-the-art Amway Center does not bode well for the Dwight faithful.

Magic fans are worried, and you can’t blame them. Howard could leave the Orlando Magic in a Carmelo Anthony situation next season — telling them he will opt out at the end of the season and walk, so they have to trade him or get nothing.

But we are a long, long way from that. For one, the Magic still should bounce back in this series — the Hawks killed it from the midrange in a way that is not sustainable. Secondly, we have no idea what the economic landscape will look like with a new collective bargaining agreement in place (if there is a franchise tag, the game changes for Howard).

But that loss to the Hawks cast a long shadow, and it could make things pretty cold in Orlando in the future.

  1. fouldwimmerlaik - Apr 19, 2011 at 2:52 AM

    C’mon now. It’s too early to even think about that since it’s just Game 1.

    Now, if they lose again in Game 2 then there could be SOME concerns since Games 3 and 4 are in Atlanta.

  2. frankvzappa - Apr 19, 2011 at 2:12 PM

    welcome to Boston, Dwight…oh, and Arena’s is not the plural form of Gilbert Arenas

  3. helinhater - Apr 20, 2011 at 8:25 AM

    No way Howard goes to Boston.

    For what?

    So he can play with a 36 year old Paul Pierce in the last year of his deal and Rajon Rondo?

    So he can have the renowned Lawrence Frank coaching him because Doc Rivers will have retired?

    That’s ludicrous.

    It will be Howard and Paul in Charlotte…Why?

    Connect the dots…

    Paul grew up in North Carolina, went to college in North Carolina, is affiliated with the Jordan brand.

    Howard grew up in Atlanta so a move to Charlotte allows him to stay in the South, close to home.

    Furthermore, the only two Bobcats under contract for the 2012-2013 season (which would be year one for Howard & Paul)
    are Gerald Henderson and Tyrus Thomas, both of whom are on the hook for a whopping 12 million total…

    And Henderson’s contract is based on the likelihood they would extend a qualifying offer his way…so it’s entirely possible the only Bobcat under contract heading into the 2012 offseason is Tyrus Thomas.

    There’s a reason Jordan has shed salary like Pat Riley and Donnie Walsh did last summer…He’s not stupid. He knows what Riley did and how he did it…and he will make every effort to replicate it.

    And even if the salary cap drops, the Bobcats can hand both Paul and Howard the max.

    But even if this doesn’t happen, you can bet on one thing – Howard will be playing with either Paul or Williams in 2012…and it wont be in a Magic uniform.

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