HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –When the Magic made that big trade back in November, to get enough help so it won’t be all about Dwight Howard, guess what? It’s all about Dwight Howard.
We won’t get into nit-picking comparisons between Vince Carter and Hedo Turkoglu and if the hernia-causing contracts of Gilbert Arenas and Rashard Lewis was an even swap. Because, in a sense, nothing has changed in Orlando. The Magic still need an MVP-level performance from Howard if they harbor dreams of going deep in the postseason, and good news for them is, they’ll probably get it.
He wasn’t the star down the stretch in last night’s win over the Knicks — that was Jameer Nelson, pumping 23 of his 26 points in the second half — but the Magic was in the game because of Howard, with 30 points, 16 rebounds and 5 blocks. He leads the Magic in those categories and also steals, which is rare for a big man.
All that said, he’s still the big advantage for Orlando in the East. The Celtics weakened themselves at center with the Kendrick Perkins trade. Joakim Noah is about as good as it gets against Howard, but Howard doesn’t need to waste previous energy trying guard a one-dimensional guy.
And hey, if Howard doesn’t get it done in O-town, he can always embrace the can’t-beat-em, join-em trend sweeping the league.
He’s still holding off on that contract extension, and teams are lining up, with the Nets, Knicks and Lakers prepared to pounce in two years (yeah, that’s a long ways off, but still). The Bergen Record reported on Tuesday that the Nets have eyes for Howard, per our main man Al Iannazzone:
Deron Williams has spoken with principal owner Mikhail Prokhorov and general manager Billy King about their plan and who they will pursue as they prepare for their Brooklyn move after next season.
Orlando center Dwight Howard tops that list, sources said.
The Nets want to improve the talent around Williams to get him to sign an extension when he’s eligible over the summer.
“He definitely talked about that and it gets you excited,” Williams said of Prokhorov. “When your owner says he’s going to spend the money and put people around you, that’s definitely appealing.
“There’s a lot of stuff that appeals to me as far as my future here.”
As the drama of Dwight’s future starts to heat up, the Magic’s star has gotten some unsolicited advice from Carmelo Anthony via the New York Daily News:
“I had to experience something like that to realize it was tough,” Anthony said. “He might not handle it the way I handled it. It can be difficult at times. I know I wouldn’t do it again.”At times it can be fun and at times it can be overwhelming, having to answer the same questions every day.”
Anthony seemed to suggest that if he had to do it all over again, he would have forced Denver to make a deal before the season started.
When asked about Howard and Paul, Anthony said: “If you’re going to make a decision then make it … earlier than later.”
And what does Howard think? According to the Orlando Sentinel’s Josh Robbins, staying put is his first choice and he also had some telling thoughts on the whole Superteam notion:
“Orlando’s the most attractive place for me right now,” Howard answered, a smile on his face. “They have a sexy new arena, a beautiful franchise, nice banners around here and been in the top four in the Eastern Conference for the past four years. Yes, Orlando’s the most attractive place right now.”
Howard can become a free agent after the 2011-12 season.
Howard also was asked whether more teams will follow the lead of the Miami Heat and the Knicks and try to win by collecting star players and whether that will factor into Howard’s eventual decision about his future.
“For me, I just feel like there’s always going to be a dominant guy on the team, and then you’ve got role players,” Howard said. “That’s the way [Michael] Jordan and his team won, and that’s the way Kobe [Bryant] and those guys won. They had two guys who could dominate, Kobe and Shaq, and then the rest of the guys were role players who knew their roles. . . .
“I don’t want to say you have to team up with another great all-star in this league to win a championship. I think it takes a team to win. If you get hot at the right time, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got three all-stars or four. You can still get beat.”
Right now, Howard seems to be fine where he is.