NBA@2: Trouble Brewing In Orlando (Again)
As intriguing as the 2012 NBA Draft promises to be, with franchises like the Charlotte Bobcats and New Orleans Hornets making franchise-transforming picks with the top two selections in tonight’s proceedings, the real drama is actually going on in Orlando. No, we’re not talking about which player the Magic will pick with the 19th selection, but rather what’s going to happen with All-Star center Dwight Howard.
By now you’re probably tired of this story . . .aren’t we all? . . .yet to talk about what’s going to happen in tonight’s draft without addressing Howard’s situation would be to ignore the elephant in the room.
A bit of back story here. By now most everyone knows that Dwight Howard could have been a free agent in July, but his last-minute decision to opt-in, out and back in has him under contract to spend one more year in Orlando. That could have been the end of the story, except that even after opting in Howard had no desire to play in Orlando next season. If you can make sense out of that twisting, turning logic than you’re smarter than anyone around the situation in Orlando.
Howard stopped talking to his agent, Dan Fegan, about the situation before the trade deadline, and Fegan still has no clue what’s going on in Howard’s inner circle, where non-basketball people seem to be calling the shots.
Despite all of this, Magic ownership is not willing to part with Howard, no matter how much new GM Rob Hennigan might want to, especially with the Houston Rockets busily collecting first round picks to send the Magic so Hennigan can rebuild in the model of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who he helped Sam Presti build.
Monty Python couldn’t come up with a more absurd skit than the one playing out in real life in Orlando.
On the one hand, sources close to Dwight’s inner circle tell HOOPSWORLD they are not anticipating a trade; on the other hand, they’re also saying they don’t want to be in Orlando . . .or Houston.
Despite all of this, Houston’s master plan continues to be to land Howard tonight, even knowing that he could walk away and leave them with nothing at the end of next season.
For Houston this is a win-win, in some ways. If they get Dwight and he walks, they have still unloaded the plethora of assets they’ve been collecting over the last few years. If they get Dwight and can convince him to stay – perhaps by adding Josh Smith or Rudy Gay to the mix – then they have the foundation of a championship team for years to come.
Of course, they would also have to endure the daily barrage of Dwight trade questions that will hound the Rockets at every stop along the way.
If the Rockets can’t get Dwight, expect them to try and cash in their draft picks, as well as talent like Kevin Martin and Luis Scola, in an effort to add an All-Star or two to the mix to get them back into the playoffs. They have no intention of using the picks and rebuilding around a youth movement.
Blazers Keeping Their Picks?
As the final hours before the 2012 NBA Draft tick away, so many draft picks are in play that it can be hard to keep track. So far, however, the Portland Trail Blazers, who own four picks in the draft, are not among those looking to move up or down.
“Right now, what we can net back just isn’t enough to justify moving the picks,” Blazers GM Neil Olshey said at a press conference on Wednesday.
The Blazers have had discussions, of course, with teams like the Houston Rockets, who would like to get into the lottery with Portland’s sixth overall pick. Olshey, however, feels that the big picture is better served by keeping their picks.
“The whole league is about having assets,” Olshey said. “It’s about having good young players, liquid contracts and cap flexibility. And right now, we have some of those. We don’t have all of them, we have some of them.”
When someone suggested that this is the most important draft in the history of the Blazers’ franchise, Olshey chuckled.
“I’m not over-magnifying the impact of the two (first round) picks (6 and 11),” Olshey said. “They are not going to solve every challenge this organization has to be on a course to win a championship. It is a step, but there are other vehicles for us to solve some of our challenges. This is the first one, and I want to get it right, but we are not going to wake up Friday morning and breathe a sigh of relief and say, ‘Last year was a bump in the road; We are back on course!’ It’s not. I want to make sure if we use the draft picks, we get the best aggregate result.”
One thing Olshey cautioned against was trying to put each of the team’s pick under an instant microscope, even warned that his team’s picks will likely raise eyebrows.
“I think what is going to happen is there is a very good chance we take guys who are going to create more questions,” Olshey said. “If I go with a guy who solves a need, then people will say we are clearly going young. If you go best player available, and it creates positional redundancy, then it’s going to be ‘What do you do at these positions?’ … “What I would really like to do in my world is go into a bunker until July 20 then come out with the aggregate composition because then it will make more sense. Everyone wants to follow this in a linear progression, but everyone forgets there is another step, and another step.”
In other words, the draft is not a quick fix for Olshey and the Blazers. There is a lot of work to be done, and that work really just begins tonight.
Nowitzki Would Welcome Deron Williams
Once the NBA Draft is over and the Dwight Howard drama has played out, the attention of the NBA world will once again turn to the situation in Brooklyn, where Deron Williams is waiting to make his decision about where to play as soon as free agency begins. The early word is that he will either choose Brooklyn or his home town of Dallas, where Mavericks All-Star Dirk Nowitzki would welcome him with open arms.
“I know him; I competed with him at the All-Star Game,” Nowitzki said in an interview with The Ticket in Dallas. “That’s really the only time you get to spend off the court with somebody in the locker room with those guys. When he played in Utah he was in the West, so I was in the same locker room [for the All-Star Game] a little bit and he’s good dude. He’s a competitor. To me he is one if the best point guards we have in this league. He’s athletic. He can shoot and get to the basket and pass, so he’s a great all around weapon. We’d love to have him run the show here and we’ll see what happens and see what he decides.”
Nowitzki admits he doesn’t have any special insight, but definitely hopes Williams chooses Dallas.
“I mean what else is there? As a German…I guess all Germans we always look at the negative things first, but I hope we have a good shot. I really do. I think he’s…we all know he’s from here. His mom lives here. He likes it here. He loves golf. We have great golf courses and we have obviously a great organization. Great fans. A great owner that makes stuff happen all the time, so I really think we have as good of a shot as Brooklyn has, but I don’t know much more than anybody else either. It’s going to be a surprise and keep my fingers crossed and hopefully we can land him.”
The Mavericks have a lot of work to do after losing in the first round as defending NBA champions, but Nowitzki has confidence in owner Mark Cuban and GM Donnie Nelson.
“I’m anxious, obviously. We’d love to get D-Will in here. I think that is no secret. I think if you look at the league now, if you look at all the top teams, all of those guys have two or three playmakers that you can just hand the ball to and they do their thing. We just need to get better. I think we had some question marks going into the summer and we signed Rick Carlisle for four years, so I think we got that out of the way and now it’s time to get some players in here and get better. I always said we as the Mavericks organization, we are not happy with losing in the first round. We feel like we need to compete every year at the highest level and it is not good enough to just make the playoffs and lose in the first round. We’ll see what happens. We are fired up. First is the NBA Draft. I think the draft is deep enough this year. That is what everybody says where we may actually get someone else at No.17 that can contribute and play right away. Then it is time for free agency. I think Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson have always done a good job finding stuff out of nowhere and making the team better and even if D-Will doesn’t work out I’m sure they got a Plan ‘B’ and Plan ‘C’, but we definitely gotta go back in the right direction and that is up.”
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