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NBA AM: Is Dwight Howard Staying Or Going?
Posted By Steve Kyler On February 27, 2012 @ 9:47 am In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
Dwight Howard Handles His Business: The swarms of media at All-Star this weekend in Orlando did their very best to try and squeeze comments out of Dwight Howard. There was a concerted effort to try and extract any kind of trade commentary and Howard, who hasn’t always helped his cause, stuck to the script and kept the story about the game and not about his future.
But that does not mean that Howard’s future wasn’t the most common topic in NBA circles, especially at the bevy of events Howards was a part of this weekend.
So here is what we know at this point:
No One Has A Promise: Sources in and around Howard made a point of making it clear that rumors of a commitment to Brooklyn were patently false.
What was said is that Howard plans to explore his options come July. Those options include talking with everyone out there and gauging which situations fit Howard’s future goals best.
This includes remaining in Orlando, which Howard sources were adamant is still a very real possibility.
Friendships Are A Fragile Thing: The Miami HEAT were able to secure both LeBron James and Chris Bosh in 2010 because of their very close friendship with Dwyane Wade. He sold the duo on the possibilities in South Beach and both joined their friend and the rest is history.
There has been talk that Howard would like to join Deron Williams, and some have taken the friendship leap to the extreme. However sources cautioned that while Dwight and Deron are friends from their Team USA time together, they are not nearly as tight as LeBron and Wade were. There is a real sense that both Howard and Williams would welcome playing together but neither is going to commit just because of a friendship.
Each views a union in Brooklyn as a attractive, but there was a real sense that neither is as committed to Brooklyn as was once believed a month ago.
The Lakers Are Not In It: Trades and trade scenarios are a fluid thing, so things change just as a quickly as they start, but the story from All-Star was that the Lakers just are not in the hunt for Howard.
They have tried. There is no questioning the Lakers interest in obtaining Dwight Howard, but the deal is just not there said sources dialed into the process.
Magic CEO Alex Martins told Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel the rumor of a Howard trade with the Lakers and separate trade with the Raptors was patently false and that no such deal exists.
The Lakers could offer the most compatible package of assets in exchange for Howard, especially if a third team were involved. However sources close to the situation said that Howard to L.A. would require a commitment to stay beyond this year and Howard is not ready to do that for anyone.
That could always change in the next 17 days, but sources were adamant that having the option to choose and shape your situation surfaces only a few times in a players’ career and Howard is not giving that up because of the impatience of other teams, including Orlando.
Steve Nash? It’s been said a couple of times that Howard’s camp has asked the Magic to pursue specific players and it’s being reported that Phoenix’s Steve Nash is the latest name added to the list.
Nash told reporters last night he understood he could be traded before the March 15th trade deadline, but was again clear he is not asking for a trade and feels it would be disrespectful to his teammates he loves to jump ship now.
Suns sources continue to say they would do a new two-year deal for Nash which is likely why he is staying so loyal, however it is clear that Orlando and several other teams including the Portland Trail Blazers have eyes for Nash.
League sources speculated that any deal involving Nash would have to send out at least two unfavorable Phoenix contracts – Hakim Warrick, Channing Frye and or Josh Childress come to mind.
The Magic’s best trade assets are J.J Redick and Ryan Anderson. The question remains would Orlando really trade Anderson, as it seems he would have to be the center piece of any deal involving Nash who is in the final year of his deal worth $11.6 million.
Staying Is An Option: A recurring theme all weekend was that Dwight Howard staying in Orlando for at least another year was a real and viable option.
The story goes like this… currently there are roughly five teams that could sign Howard outright – New Jersey, Dallas, Indiana, Boston and maybe Sacramento.
How much bigger does the pool get if Howard waits another year? Does a better situation surface in a year? Can teams start dumping salaries to open up space for him?
But more importantly from a Magic point of view, it gives them a final year to deliver the change they have promised Howard since the start of training camp. Or it gives them the option to trade him before the start of next year and get real value for him, while Howard maximizes his money.
Opting in insures Howard gets his final $19.5 million contract year. If he opts out of his deal as almost everyone expects, he’ll get a starting salary of $18.99 million.
It’s not a huge number, but its more and sources close to Howard’s camp say playing out his current deal remains an option.
Mom Is Not Making The Decision: TNT’s Craig Sager reported during the game last night that Howard’s mother has been pushing for Dwight to remain in Orlando.
This really is not news. Howard’s family has long considered Orlando the best long-term fit; however Dwight has made it clear that he’ll make his own decision when the time is right, but there is truth to the idea that Dwight’s parents would like him in Orlando.
The Orlando Magic’s position on Howard remains as it was before the All-Star break. They plan to meet with Howard in the next couple of weeks and gauge where Dwight’s head is at. If they get the sense that Howard still wants out of Orlando, then they will explore deals to get the most value for themselves regardless of where Howard wants to be.
If Howard keeps the door open to staying, the Magic say they are willing to take the risk because Howard is a once in a generation player.
There is some poker to be played here, but the good news is the trade deadline is just 17 days away, so there will be closure in some fashion very soon.
Lin Provides The Blueprint: There is no doubting that the Jeremy Lin story has captivated the NBA and the sports world, but for players in the D-League, where Lin was playing just a few weeks ago, the Jeremy Lin story is further proof that sometimes all you need to do is fight and wait for your opportunity.
Marqus Blakely of the Sioux Falls Skyforce was named a D-League All-Star this year after competing in the skills competition last year.
Marqus, like many of the players in Orlando representing the D-League, is looking for his chance to prove he belongs in the NBA.
“It’s definitely eye-opening and motivating,” said Blakely of Lin’s rise to stardom. “To see him on that big stage; how he kind of overnight blew up into Linsanity, the whole Linsation. I’m happy for him and I’m glad that he’s got that opportunity; he was able to try and had that opportunity. As of right now with the rest of the season I’m focused on just getting better and being more consistent and working on my weaknesses while trying to get a call-up. Right opportunity, right time, it will hopefully come.”
Marqus was labeled during the NBA Draft process as an undersized power forward, however since the draft Marqus as transformed his body and his game into a proto-typical small forward and is having great success.
Marqus has been averaging 13 points and 7.2 rebounds per game in the D-League. That was good enough for an All-Star berth.
“It’s the closest that you can get, getting to the NBA I mean,” explained Blakely. “The whole process of getting here, being an All-Star is great, being a part of All-Star Weekend is great. I made it this year and I’m excited to be here, a lot of good guys around, a lot of fun.”
Maybe it was the Jeremy Lin effect, but this year’s D-League game featured a lot of NBA executives who were scouting for possible call-ups.
“There are a lot of scouts and GMs out here. Everybody is looking for their next Jeremy Lin,” joked Blakely. “This is a place to find it at the All-Star game with a lot of talent, East and West, there are a lot of teams from top to bottom that have a lot of talent and then hopefully, not just me, but a lot of these other All-Stars can be called up to the NBA.”
Marqus is no stranger to the NBA process. He was with the L.A. Clippers in training camp last season and the Houston Rockets picked him up at the end of last season and brought him to camp this year.
With teams looking to add additional support for a playoff push. Marqus is simply waiting for his number to be called.
“You definitely need to wait for your chance,” explained Marqus. “You can only do things that you can control which is work out and get better every day. Heart and hard work is where that comes from and just to be able to not get down on yourself if something goes wrong. If you get cut from training camp or you don’t make a team, don’t have a good game, whatever, you’ve just got to bounce back and go right back at the grind. If you sit there and feel sorry for yourself you’re going to miss a lot of opportunities and that’s what it’s about, opportunities.”
There is no doubting Jeremy Lin’s instant success has opened the eyes of NBA teams, and for Marqus Blakely he just hopes he can get his own opportunity to prove his worth.
“It’s just a reminder that coming out of college I was an under the radar type of player,” said Marqus. “My whole mentality whenever I play is to kind of prove them wrong and I’m not talking about GMs or scouts, I’m talking about the other team too. That happens with hard work and hustle so that’s why I feel I’ve gotten to this point because I’m able to keep myself on that one track, not really diverge from it.”
Marqus has played in 68 D-League games and is a career 58.5% field-goal shooter. He has averaged 13.4 points and 5.6 rebounds and was a scorching 81.8% from the field during Saturday’s D-League All-Star game.
He may not be the next Jeremy Lin, but he does look like a future NBA player for sure… all he needs is his opportunity.
Aldridge Ready For The Second Half: Trail Blazer forward LaMarcus Aldridge finally got the respect he has earned being named to and playing in his first NBA All-Star game.
LaMarcus joked about his limited minutes last night saying he understood he was backing up Oklahoma City Thunder forward and 2012 All-Star MVP Kevin Durant, so the minutes would be scarce, but with the mid-season festivities out of the way he’s ready to get back to work in Portland.
“I didn’t sit around here,” said a smiling Aldridge. “I’ve been moving and running and eating so I think it’s going to be easier to go back to doing that than doing this weekend. This weekend I was doing so much and didn’t have any time to really sit around. I think when I get back to the season I have nap time and all that type of stuff.”
The next couple of days will involve some rest and travel, but there won’t be many vacation days for Portland’s most valuable player.
“Tonight is go home,” detailed LaMarcus. “Tomorrow is rest and do cardio. Tuesday is do cardio and fly to Portland and then fly from Portland to Denver. Tuesday [is] practice and then Wednesday is play a game.”
The Blazers have been one of the most inconsistent teams in the West after a strong start to the season. Lineup changes and a shift in personnel have helped, but word is former Blazer big man Joel Przybilla passed his physical with the team this weekend and could sign as early as today. He could help lighten the load along the frontline for Portland.
“That’s good. We definitely could use another big,” said Aldridge.”[He] knows our system and he’s a real tough guy down low so I think he’s definitely going to make us better.”
The Blazers continue to be a bubble playoff team, sitting at 18-16 on the season which is a half a game up on Denver and a full game up on Minnesota for the eighth playoff spot in the West.
Aldridge does not see that changing any time soon.
“We’re in the eighth spot,” proclaimed Aldridge. “Yah, so we’re in the playoffs right now. That’s what I’m trying to say, so of course I see us as a playoff team. We have a great team with a lot of good guys. We’ve just got to figure out how to put it all together.
“I think we’ve found the good lineup now with all the changes that we’ve made so I think now this lineup has to go prove it every night and be more consistent.”
The Blazers have 32 games left on the season, featuring 14 teams with a record above .500 and 21 games versus Western Conference teams. The Blazers have 17 home games left and face the Denver Nuggets in Denver on Wednesday.
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