HANG TIME NEW JERSEY BUREAU — Magic general manager Otis Smith acknowledged Saturday afternoon that Dwight Howard has asked to be traded. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports that Howard has specifically asked to be traded to the New Jersey Nets, where he would team up with point guard Deron Williams.
Smith now faces the unenviable task of finding the best package he can for Howard, knowing that he’d lose him for nothing if a deal isn’t done by the trade deadline, and knowing that he’s really only got two teams to work with: the Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers. Other teams would be wary of giving the Magic any strong assets, knowing that Howard’s heart is elsewhere and he can leave next summer.
Smith has tried his best to build a title contender around Howard, and the Magic did get to the Finals in 2009. They were even a very strong team last season. But the moves that Smith has made over the years have driven the Magic to a point where they have neither the financial flexibility nor the assets to bring in another star.
So it was a little strange to hear that the Magic have agreed to terms with guard Jason Richardson (their own free agent) on a four-year deal worth $25 million.
Now, $6.25 million a year isn’t that unreasonable for Richardson. It’s almost a 60 percent pay cut from what he made last season. And this is a guy who shot 40 percent from 3-point range over the last four years.
But Richardson is on the wrong side of 30, with his production bound to decline each year of that contract.
More important, if Smith is in the process of evaluating trades for his franchise player and possibly facing a rebuilding process in the wake of a deal, then why is he committing to a contract that won’t expire until Richardson is 34 years old and will be difficult to move in a trade for at least the next two seasons? Wouldn’t he want to remain relatively flexible instead of going deeper into luxury tax territory?
Smith has made a lot of curious transactions over the years. Add this one to the list.