HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — From the very start, we’ve had nothing but good things to say about the way the Orlando Magic are handling Dwight Howard and his future with the franchise.
With every win, and every milestone (above) Howard reaches in a Magic uniform, their decision to step back from the trade discussions involving their superstar center seems more and more like the right one.
The Denver Nuggets went down the same path last season with Carmelo Anthony before moving him to New York. But these situations are quite different in regards to the perception of the teams making the decision. While the Nuggets were a playoff team with Anthony, no one considered them much of a title contender before the trade.
The Magic, meanwhile, appear to be a legitimate threat to the Bulls and Heat in the chase for the Eastern Conference crown this season. As of this morning they’re second in the Southeast Division, sporting an identical 12-5 record as the Heat, behind the 13-5 Hawks.
And whether Howard is on his way out of Orlando or not, he is busy cementing his legacy as arguably the greatest player in Magic history (sorry Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway, but Dwight already has the all-time scoring mark and has led the franchise to just as many appearances in The Finals as you both did.)
Orlando has three things going for it in its effort to manipulate Howard into staying: money, a winning record and his desire to be liked. If Howard chooses to go to another team as a free agent, it could cost him $30 million, since the collective bargaining agreement allows the Magic, as the team that drafted him, to offer him the most money.
The salary should be enough to make even Howard — who is earning close to $18 million this season — uncomfortable about leaving.
Some NBA stars might be egomaniacs, but few of them want to be cast in a bad light. Most players don’t even have the guts to ask for a trade themselves. They use their agents, representatives and other back channels to make their true feelings known so they can have plausible deniability with their home teams’ fans. During his trade drama in Denver last season, Carmelo Anthony always insisted he never asked for a trade, even though it was so obvious he wanted to be with the New York Knicks that he might as well have put it on a Times Square billboard.
There’s that Anthony comparison again. And it’s hard to ignore the similarities, good and bad.
We all know how that’s working out for Anthony … and for his former team.