May 28, 2011, 1:00 PM EDT
First off, if you’re a Magic fan, stop reading this. You’re only going to get frustrated and angry that the big mean media is once again making up stories about Dwight Howard when he clearly wants to re-sign in Orlando. After all, he said he loves the city! And who says that and then leaves? So you should just stop and go check out StayDwight.com instead. You’ll be happier and I won’t have to feel like a heel for pushing material that clearly could not be more untrue to you which will only worry you. So long, Magic fans!
(They gone? Okay, back to reality.)
It really is possible Howard stays in Orlando, I wasn’t just making that up. The guy’s been there a long time, the Magic have always been aggressive in trying to build around him, and a possible franchise tag could lock him up against his will. But the noise out of Howard’s camp isn’t fabricated, despite what Magic fans may want to believe, and there’s enough of it to buy into the idea there’s something going on, especially when combined with what we know of his personality and branding, which, let’s be honest, portrays an image of a guy who wouldn’t marry the camera, but might give it a promise ring.
The big assumption has been that the Lakers with all their flashbulb opportunities would be where Howard lands, but ESPN’s Ric Bucher said in a chat Friday that doesn’t look like the case at the moment.
Lakers have slipped on Dwight’s list for reasons beyond (Bynum being “untouchable”). I’d rank his preferences in this order: Orlando, Dallas, NJ, Lakers. But for Orlando to keep him, they’re going to have to make some serious deals, ones that I’m really doubtful they can pull off.
That second city on the list is going to raise some eyebrows. The Mavericks will have expiring contracts, young talent, draft picks (they’re one of the few teams who haven’t completely mortgaged their long-term prospects to improve), and a market big enough to contain Howard’s ego while putting him next to a Hall of Famer. Obviously how the Mavericks fair in the Finals might affect this decision but that’s an intriguing prospect. The Nets remain an option with Brooklyn on the horizon, despite their continual “Knick-ing” of themselves (defined as “removing all long-term prospects and assets in a fruitless pursuit of immediate and significant improvement”).
The hometown team is still first, just like Toronto and Cleveland were still first on the other’s lists. Dwight’s not either of those players, but he’s also experienced just as much frustration. Derrick Rose winning the MVP over him despite Howard’s very arguable superior season, in a landslide, has to make Howard wonder where the lack of respect is coming from and what role markets played into it.
Howard staying would be the best thing for everyone. He would have an opportunity to man up and be the guy for the franchise, Orlando wouldn’t lose yet another superstar to brighter lights of a bigger city, the tied would be stemmed on the mass migration of stars to the five top markets, and Otis Smith would still have a job. And it could happen.
It just doesn’t feel like it.
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