The NBA season is finally upon us. Who’s enjoying themselves so far?
Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, for sure. They dropped a small hint on the Celtics (minus Paul Pierce, but still) that the Knicks will seek the division title for themselves, thanks to Melo’s big effort in the opener. Derrick Rose is thrilled, not only because he’s richer by $90 million-plus, but he out-did Kobe Bryant during Kobe Time in L.A., floating in the game winner while Kobe chose (and failed) to beat a triple-team at the buzzer. Kevin Durant got the good times started in Oklahoma City and Chris Paul actually said “being a Clipper is like a dream come true” and nobody called him on it, definitely not after Lob City got off to a promising start at Golden State.
But Dwight Howard? We may have to wash his body language out with soap.
The more you watched the Magic lose to the Thunder, the more you sensed that all isn’t right with Orlando, that this will not end well. Howard has perhaps his weakest surrounding cast in five years and, as you might have heard, he’s headed to free agency next summer. There is the stench of disconnect in the air, if only because Howard won’t commit long-term and subsequently GM Otis Smith and the franchise are on the clock as to what to do with him.
Josh Robbins at the Orlando Sentinel details the Magic’s putrid showing in the season opener, which Dwight mostly attributed to the lockout layoff:
The way the Orlando Magic offense performed Christmas night, you would have thought the team has an entirely new cast, not just a couple of additions here and there.
Two frustrating scoring draughts — each lasting about a quarter, each confounding — cost the Magic in their season opener, a 97-89 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
And, now, players say they still need some more time to jell after the lockout-induced layoff and an abbreviated preseason.
“It’s going to take a while because we’ve been off for a long time,” Howard said.
“For people who really don’t understand the game, it takes a while to get back into the swing of playing. No matter what you’ve done all summer, it’s just a different feeling when you’re out there playing against other people.”
And it’s not like the Magic collapsed against the Bobcats; Oklahoma City is for real and Kendrick Perkins usually plays Howard tight, or at least better than most. Howard had 11 points and 15 rebounds but, surprisingly, had a worse stat line than Ryan Anderson (25 points, 10 rebounds). When’s the last time that happened?
The new labor agreement gives Orlando a considerable edge in terms of paying Howard but for someone who makes considerable coin in endorsements, his situation is different than most. He can take “less” and move on. And so, the potential for a Dwightmare in Orlando has officially begun.
Seeing how Kobe obviously didn’t trust anyone else but himself with the ball in the closing moments against Chicago, does Howard end up with the Lakers? Are the Nets still in play despite Brook Lopez’s injury? Who else? Where else? This is the cloud that’ll follow Orlando all season or until something, one way or another, is done. The Cavaliers kept LeBron James in his walk year because they had a shot at a championship (and did eventually win more games than anyone in the regular season) but that’s not the case in Orlando. If the opener was any indication, the Magic aren’t going very far with or without Howard.
What would you do if you were Otis Smith?