Is It Time To Trade Dwight Howard?
There is no question that Dwight Howard is the best big man in the NBA today. He is a rebounding machine, absolutely intimidates any player thinking about driving the lane, and he commands at least a double-team every time he touches the ball. It seems insane that a team would even consider trading him, but that’s exactly the situation in which the Orlando Magic find themselves.
Welcome to the modern NBA, where what’s happening on the court is completely overshadowed by rumors and innuendos about what might be going on behind the scenes. It seems some players who came up in an environment where rumors are king are more interested in being the subject of those rumors than they are in competing for championships. Dwight Howard is the latest in a long line of such attention hounds, and his antics are scaring the heck out of the Magic’s management team.
Is it time to take the proactive move of trading Dwight Howard to avoid losing him in free agency? HOOPSWORLD’s Bill Ingram and Alex Kennedy tackle the issue head-on.
HOOPSWORLD’s Alex Kennedy:
As the trade deadline approaches, the Orlando Magic shouldn’t be in any rush to move Dwight Howard. Any proposed deal that is on the table in March will likely still be available to Orlando in July. There are still some people within the organization that believe Howard can be persuaded to sign a long-term contract with the Magic, which is why the superstar hasn’t been moved just yet.
During the lockout, Howard had everyone in his life telling him that the grass is greener elsewhere and it was against league rules for the Magic to communicate with their big man. Now, Howard is back in their building and they’re trying to make their pitch and dismiss everything his inner circle was telling him. Howard is a once-in-a-generation player, and if there’s any chance he’ll decide to stay in Orlando, no matter how unlikely, the Magic would be foolish to make a trade prematurely.
Entering the year, the Magic felt that if they contended for a championship, it could entice Howard to stay or, at the very least, make it harder for him to walk as a free agent. While the team has struggled recently, they’re still capable of making a deep postseason run. Even if Howard’s time in Orlando is coming to an end, keeping him until July is still the right decision because it allows the team to contend for a championship one last time before they start the rebuilding process.
It’s unlikely that Howard will be in Orlando when the 2012-13 season starts. With that said, the Magic should take their time and keep Howard past the trade deadline. If they want to make a trade, they’ll still be able to do that in July. Or, they could call Howard’s bluff, refuse to trade him and see if he’s really willing to leave $30 million on the table to sign elsewhere. Keeping Howard for several more months gives the Magic more time to persuade their franchise player to stay and the opportunity to compete for a championship, without limiting their options going forward.
HOOPSWORLD’s Bill Ingram:
Last night’s win over the Miami HEAT is a perfect argument for why the Orlando Magic should not trade Dwight Howard. Simply put, when Orlando’s threes are dropping and Dwight is focused on wrecking as much devastation as he can wreck, the Magic can hang with just about any team in the NBA.
Before Magic fans get too carried away thinking perhaps trading Dwight Howard isn’t such a good idea, take a long, hard look at the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Toronto Raptors. Those two teams gambled that their stars would not leave them in the lurch, and now they’re in the middle of rebuilding projects. LeBron James and Chris Bosh had no loyalty whatsoever, at the end of the day, and neither will Dwight Howard.
As good as the Magic are at times, they are not good consistently. They can beat up the bad teams, sure, like they feasted on the bad teams lined up for them early in the season. They ran off wins against Charlotte (twice), Washington, Sacramento and Golden State, but when the Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers came calling the Magic tucked their tails between their legs and hid.
That’s why Dwight Howard is not going to re-sign with the Magic next summer, and that’s why the Magic must trade him before the trade deadline.
Not only do the Magic need to make sure they get something in return for their all-world center, they also need to use him to unload Hedo Turkoglu’s big contract. It would add insult to injury for Dwight to walk away and leave the Magic on the hook for Turkoglu, whose existence only makes sense if Dwight is drawing his defender away on a regular basis. If Hedo has to create his own shot the Magic are in trouble, and they’ll be paying $11.8 million next season for a player who would do well to average 11 points.
The Magic have wasted their shot to win an NBA championship, honestly. When GM Otis Smith decided that the best way to defend his team’s 2009 Eastern Conference championship was to start breaking up the team, it was the beginning of the end for Dwight Howard in Orlando. Dwight had been to the Promised Land and wanted nothing more than to get back, yet each season Smith makes more and more moves in the opposite direction. Frankly, it’s hard to figure out why he still has a job.
But Dwight isn’t the innocent bystander here, either. He may be a victim of circumstance in some ways, but he also has to bear some responsibility for his situation. The way he has gone about his business this season is inexcusable. He tells every reporter on the road that he would love to play in their city, which immediately becomes a headline, and that’s proving to be quite a distraction for the Magic. Like LeBron James before him, Dwight is telling his home fans that he loves the city and wants to play there long-term. He can’t imagine playing anywhere else and he talks about his contract situation incessantly.
This is simply not how a savvy professional goes about his business.
Two summers ago Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki were in similar situations to the one Howard is facing now. What? You didn’t know? You missed the millions of headlines about Kobe and Dirk threatening to leave Los Angeles and Dallas, respectively, possibly to team up together elsewhere? That’s because it didn’t happen. Not once. Bryant and Nowitzki negotiated their contracts behind the scenes and without fanfare. And by the way, between the two of them they have accounted for three straight NBA championships.
Professionalism matters. Distraction matters. The reason New Orleans Hornets GM Dell Demps traded Chris Paul before the start of the 2011-12 season is because he knew that if he didn’t that story would overshadow and distract his team through the year. Dwight Howard is demonstrating the point. It’s time for Dwight to take a page out of Nowitzki’s and Bryant’s playbook and stop distracting his team. If you want to be a champion you have to walk like a champion.
Dwight Howard is not walking like a champion, and until he does it won’t matter which players are around him or which team name is on his jersey.
Make no mistake, though . . .we’re seeing our last season of games in which Dwight Howard has the Orlando Magic logo on his chest. The sooner they accept that and move on, the better off they’ll be going forward.
What do you think? Time to trade Dwight, or call his bluff and bet that he won’t leave $30 million on the table to walk away? Drop your thoughts in the comments section below!