HANG TIME HQ, ATLANTA — Interesting how things work. LeBron James went through an entire season with Cleveland dealing with constant inquiries about where he’d sign as a free agent. Chris Paul endured a flammable fall with his situation as well. Dwight Howard and the prospect of leaving Orlando was a sizzling topic, too, until the season started and the subject seemed to disappear.
Well, in case you were wondering, Howard still wants to be traded. From the Orlando Sentinel:
“Nothing has changed … It’s the same thing: You have to do what’s best for you, regardless of what anybody else says. It’s your life and you have to live it your way. You can’t do it how everybody wants you to do it or be afraid or be upset about what people are saying, because they’re not the ones that have to go through it. Sometimes, you’ve got to make tough decisions, and you’ve got to always take care of you and your family first, because nobody else will.”
Gotta give it up to Howard. He’s putting up 18 points and 14 rebounds a night (despite a foul-prone night in Sacramento) and being his usual intimidating self on defense, as if to attack anyone who believes he isn’t giving his all in Orlando. Actually, you could joke that Howard is shopping himself with his performances. Anyway, Howard has stayed mostly mum on the issue, not willing to make it a daily distraction for a team that has played surprisingly well heading into Wednesday’s game in Portland.
In an interview with the Sentinel, Magic GM Otis Smith reiterated that Howard’s preseason trade request still stands and revealed the stresses he faces:
Smith acknowledged that he has heard about the criticism of his job performance.
“If trying is a sin, then I have sinned a lot, because I’m never going to stop trying,” Smith said.
Smith discussed the tricky situation of trading a franchise player who is likable in town, even going as far to say he’s received threats:
Smith: You can’t take one of these jobs, mine or Stan’s [Van Gundy], and have thin skin. You have to have pretty thick skin. It’s not us; it’s the people around us that’s affected the most. We signed up for it. No one put a gun to our head and told us to take it. It’s our families that are affected the most.
Sentinel: Do you mean not having you at home?
Smith: No, just all the comments. Just because I don’t read it, that doesn’t necessary mean that they don’t or aren’t threatened by it.
Sentinel: When you say “threatened,” you don’t mean physically?
Smith: I’ve gotten those, too.
Sentinel: You have. But not your family?
Smith: No, I’ve gotten those, too.
Orlando still holds a bit of leverage here. The Magic can chill until after the All-Star break — the game is in Orlando this year, yet another reason to be patient with Howard — and then study their options as the trade deadline approaches. If Andrew Bynum is in the conversation, then dealing Howard to the Lakers, one of his three preferred destinations (Dallas and Brooklyn the others) is a real possibility. Anything that will allow Orlando to package Howard and Hedo Turkoglu‘s contract must be seriously considered, because it will allow the Magic to free up cap space for flexibility in a future trade or free-agent signing.
In reading the comments from Smith, the organization seems to believe Howard no longer wants to stay in Orlando. So he will be traded; it’s just a matter of when, and to where, and for what. The betting money’s on the Lakers because of Bynum. Orlando could do a lot worse.