HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — A little bird thinks it’s time the Lakers stopped kidding themselves and made a run at Dwight Howard if they’re going to jump right back into the business of collecting Larry O’Brien trophies.
Well, a big bird actually. One with five championship rings.
In the aftermath of the Mavericks’ Finals win over the Heat, Hall of Famer Magic Johnson tweeted: “Lakers should think about calling the Orlando Magic.”
It should be noted that @MagicJohnson quickly deleted the tweet, but the message was delivered by the living legend and Lakers’ ambassador, even if he sold his ownership slice and is no longer officially connected with the team.
We’ll call the episode: “Magic & Magic” or “Making Dwight Disappear.”
After all, for what other reason would Johnson suggest the Lakers place a phone call to central Florida – Disney World tickets or to enroll in the Stan Van Gundy Charm School?
So it is officially the opening of hunting season on 6-foot-11, All-NBA First Team centers, especially after our very own good buddy and blood hound Scott Howard-Cooper caught up to Howard in Italy this week and got him to acknowledge that he won’t sign a contract extension with the Magic and will reconsider his future in Orlando if the team doesn’t win a championship next season.
“I want to win a championship,” the All-Star center said. “I think the owners have to really know that. That’s been my goal and my mission since I’ve been in the NBA — to win a championship. I don’t have side goals or agendas. My main goal is to win a championship. I want to have 14 other guys who feel the same way.”
Asked if the Magic have that now, he said, “It’s off and on. Sometimes guys are there whole-heartedly and then sometimes I’ve had teammates allow people getting in their ears and things like that effect the way that they play and approach the game.”
Howard said he did not tell DeVos and Vander Weide specific roster moves he wanted to see.
“I just told them, ‘We’ve got to have guys who are going to play hard 48 minutes and who are going to battle the other team, who are going to fight night in and night out for a championship,’ ” he said.
With a potential a labor lockout looming, the Howard-to-Lakers story/hunt/rumor could be the most entertaining activity of the offseason.
Of course, the topic started moving to the front burner as soon as the former two-time defending champions were swept aside by Dirk & the Miracle Mavs in the West semis. The call from one side of Laker World is to stop waiting on 23-year-old center Andrew Bynum and ship him to Orlando along with, say, Lamar Odom in return for a package of Howard and maybe J.J. Redick. Or if the Magic insist on unburdening an earlier huge mistake, find a way to shoe-horn Gilbert Arenas’ and his huge contract into the deal.
The pressure will only build on the Magic as next season progresses if Orlando hasn’t moved toward the top of the standings and re-established itself among the elite level where it was perched in 2009. Do the good folks in Orlando really want to see another All-Star big man walk out the door like Shaquille O’Neal did in 1996 for no compensation?
But the other side of the conversation says there is no reason for the Lakers to panic after just one trophy-less season out of the past three. Can’t L.A. simply make minor upgrades to the starting lineup (goodbye, Derek Fisher) and the bench to increase athleticism and foot speed? And won’t the implementation of new coach Mike Brown’s defensive philosophy bring about a rebirth of the Lakers as a force?
In short, is there a reason for the Lakers to panic? The smart guys in Las Vegas who set the odds at the sports books have already established Kobe Bryant and the Lakers as the second favorites, just behind Miami, to win the 2012 championship. The Heat check in at 5/2, followed by the Lakers at 11/2, Bulls at 6/1, Thunder at 8/1 and Dallas at 10/1.
In case you’re wondering, the Magic are currently listed at 22/1. So it doesn’t sound like much chance of Howard fulfilling his championship dreams in Florida.
That’s why the little bird named Magic Johnson delivered his message. Tweet, tweet!