NBA PM: Trading Dwight Howard
The NBA lock-out is, by all accounts, a bad thing. First and foremost, it’s costing this year’s rookie class valuable development time that simply can’t be regained. On a larger scale, however, it is also forcing NBA executives to sit back and reflect on their rosters while they are incapable of adjusting them in any way.
One of the teams that should benefit most from this new perspective is the Orlando Magic, who face a season in which their all-world center could decide to walk away as a free agent. Over the past three seasons they’ve gone from contenders to pretenders, thanks in large part of a number of questionable moves made by GM Otis Smith. The core of the Finals team is all but gone, and what’s left of it hasn’t meshed well with all of the new pieces. Dwight Howard has been clear in saying he wants to stay in Orlando long-term, but also that the most important thing is winning. If the Magic get to the end of next season and haven’t made a significant stride back in the direction of the Finals you can bet Howard will strongly consider other options.
“I wanted to be more part of the process a little more,” Howard told 790AM The Zone in Atlanta recently. “I had to step out on the court and I wanted to make sure that the people I played with wanted to go out and play hard every night. My only issue was the fact that I didn’t really have a chance to be involved. I think with the guys that we brought in we still have an excellent chance of winning, but we all have to be on the same page. I do miss a lot of the guys we traded. You know Marcin Gortat…I think he was very key since last season. Also Mickael Pietrus and Rashard Lewis and also Vince [Carter]. All of these guys were very key in our success and to see them go, on the personal side it hurt, but I understand the NBA is a business and we have to keep going.”
That’s exactly what the Magic fear most, that Dwight will just keep going . . .somewhere else. It’s a tough situation to be in, though the Magic have only themselves to blame for all of the roster upheaval. Do they let Dwight finish the season in Orlando and trust that they can reach an agreement for him to stay put long-term, or do they find the best offer at the trade deadline and make sure they aren’t left holding the bag like the Toronto Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers were last summer?
If the Magic were to do the unthinkable and trade their franchise cornerstone, there will be plenty of offers. The Houston Rockets would like to think that the lure of Hakeem Olajuwon might be enough to lure Howard to Houston, the Los Angeles Lakers have already made inquiries, and you can bet that half the teams in the league would at least put something on the table for the Magic to consider. But what’s a good price for the best center in the NBA and probably the world?
Don’t think the oft-rumored Pau Gasol deal gets it done for the Magic. It would be a real shocker if the Magic sent Howard to the Lakers after their last franchise center went to LA to win his first championships. If the Magic trade Dwight, it won’t be the the Lakers. Once we’ve disqualified the Lakers, look at which teams have good young centers on the roster. The New Jersey Nets are the first team to come to mind, as they could send Brook Lopez to Orlando to replace Howard and include Deron Williams to keep the Orlando fan base from burning down the beautiful new Amway Center.
Too steep a price? Lopez and an All-Star point guard for the best center on the planet? Consider for a moment that Williams was none-too-thrilled with the trade that sent him to New Jersey, and he didn’t exactly hit it off with Nets head coach Avery Johnson. Williams was traded from the Jazz because he ran off an old-school, my-way-or-the-highway coach in Jerry Sloan, and Avery Johnson is every bit as old-school. He used to have screaming matches with low-key, low-maintenance players like Devin Harris and Jason Terry, imagine how quickly Williams would get on Johnson’s nerves and vice versa. It’s hard to see Deron Williams in New Jersey long-term if Avery Johnson is there long-term.
Let’s consider something else, as well. Chris Paul is a very good friend of Dwight’s and the two would love to play together. Paul’s commitment is to the City of New Orleans, and if the Hornets leave town he is likely to feel much less committed to the franchise. He, too, is a free agent next summer, and could decide to start over somewhere else as the Hornets look to do the same. The Nets have very little salary committed two seasons from now and could easily trade for Dwight and then sign Chris Paul, particularly if the two negotiated together and took less to play with each other, as Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh did with the Miami HEAT last summer. They could even add a third star of their own to the mix.
It has to be a terrifying thought for Magic fans to lose Dwight Howard, just as it has to be a motivator for Otis Smith to make something happen for the Magic between the time the lockout lifts and play begins. The one thing working in Orlando’s favor is that Howard really doesn’t want to leave. No, not like LeBron James said he didn’t want to leave and took the first bus out of town. Dwight really wants to be in Orlando, and see LeBron’s departure from Cleveland as a travesty.
“I think the way he did just seems like it just made people seem he ditched the whole town of Cleveland,” said Howard. “I don’t think he meant it like that, but that’s how it came off and it hurt a lot of people. I actually talked to a lot of people in Cleveland who were just hurt by how he did it, so I think that was the biggest thing. He did everything he could in Cleveland. I think he felt like he just had to move on.”
Dwight doesn’t want to hurt the fans of Orlando, to whom he feels a special connection, and that’s a big advantage for the Magic. Loyalty, however, won’t keep Dwight in town if the wins don’t come, and right now the Magic aren’t constructed in such a way as to instill confidence in their ability to contend.
The lock-out is bad for the NBA, even if no games are actually lost. Marketing partners have already spent their dollars elsewhere and the game’s global reputation has taken a hit. For some teams, however, it could turn out to be a much-needed respite from the day-to-day trade rumors and speculation. If Otis Smith and his staff use this time to take a long, hard look at their roster and realize it’s time to get busy winning or get busy rebuilding, it could turn out to be a real godsend for the Magic. If they lose Dwight Howard next summer it could turn out to be Smith’s last mistake as an NBA GM.
Raptors Look To Improve Conditioning
The Toronto Raptors announced Thursday the hiring of Alex McKechnie as their director of sports science. He will oversee all athletic training, rehabilitation and strength and conditioning. McKechnie worked for eight seasons as the athletic performance coordinator of the Los Angeles Lakers. He is regarded as a leader in core training and movement integration.
“I am delighted to be a part of such a quality organization and look forward to working with the Raptors, as well as living in a great city like Toronto,” said McKechnie.
McKechnie, a native of Glasgow, Scotland, came to Canada in 1974 to be the head physiotherapist to the Varsity Athletic Program at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia. During his time at Simon Fraser, McKechnie also served as the team physiotherapist for the Vancouver Whitecaps of the North American Soccer League (1974-82) and team physiotherapist for the 1976 Canadian Olympic Soccer Team.
McKechnie left Simon Fraser in 1977 to open his own private practice specializing in Orthopedics and Sports Medicine. Three years later, he began working on a consultant basis with the Vancouver Canucks (1980-2000).
In 2001, after two years of work and research, McKechnie was issued a United States patent on the Torsion Board which he subsequently licensed with Reebok to produce the Reebok Core Board, a device widely used in the NBA, NFL, NHL and gyms in North America. He also developed the Core X system which has been widely adopted in the NBA, NFL, NHL, Premier League and European soccer.
A member of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists and Canadian Physiotherapy Association, McKechnie continues his individual consulting work spending his off-seasons in Vancouver developing functional movement screening and training for players in the NBA, NHL and NFL.
Mavs To Be Tested Early
Defending an NBA championship is no easy task. Sure, teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs have made a habit returning to the Finals regularly, but they are the exceptions to the rule. Most of the time, the pressure to repeat is more than a team can stand. They get their opponent’s best game every night, and even the lottery teams start to look tough when they’re focused on taking out the champs.
One thing the Dallas Mavericks didn’t want as they started to think about their title defense was a slow start, and the NBA schedulers made sure there would be no let-down for Dallas. Taking a look at their schedule, which was released earlier this week, the Mavs will have to come out of preseason ready to fight for their lives.
Last season the Mavericks hosted the lowly Charlotte Bobcats in their home opener, but this season they will kick off the season against none other than the Eastern Conference’s best team of 2010-11. MVP Derrick Rose and the 62-win Chicago Bulls will look to make a splash to start the new season by taking out the champs on a visit to Dallas, but that’s just game one. After hosting the Bulls the Mavericks will head down I-35 for a visit with their old rivals and the West’s best team in 2010-11, the 61-win San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs may have been banged up when the playoffs started, but they promise to be well-rested and ready to help Tim Duncan make one more title run in 2011-12. As if that’s not enough, the third game of the season will see the Mavs host their Western Conference Finals rivals, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Mavs then get a quick two-game reprieve as they head East to take on the New Jersey Nets and Toronto Raptors, but the rest of November brings a steady diet of playoff teams. The Mavs will play the tough Memphis Grizzlies twice in three games. They’ll play three road games at Denver, Houston and Atlanta, all tough teams to beat on the road, and also take on playoff teams from Philadelphia and Portland before the end of the month. Mixed in are some games against the lottery teams -Cleveland, Sacramento, Phoenix and Golden State, but overall it’s a grueling first month of the season for the defending champion Mavericks.
And they wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Mavericks had a lot to prove last season, and proved a lot of critics wrong en route to their first-ever NBA championship. The more pressure they faced, the better the Mavericks played. If that pattern holds true in 2011-12, they should be just fine. Plenty of people will overlook the Mavs next season, choosing to focus on sexier teams like the Miami HEAT and Los Angeles Lakers instead. But if the Mavs can come out of November with wins over some of the very best teams in the league, it will be awfully hard to look past them as they look to do what so few teams have done and repeat as NBA champs.
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