HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — It’s looking increasingly clear that the Magic would like to move Dwight Howard and get something for him before Thursday at 3. But it’s also looking unlikely that they’ll be doing business with the Nets.
Sources tell NBA.com that the Nets, suspecting that Orlando’s options are vaporizing, are seriously rethinking the notion of trading for Howard. The feeling in Jersey/Brooklyn is Howard will sign this summer as a free agent anyway; why gut the team just to have him an extra month?
The Nets want to put a winning product on the floor in Brooklyn next season and make a big splash in Knicks Country. The chances of that would diminish if they part with Brook Lopez or MarShon Brooks or even their first-round pick, which is likely a lottery pick. Rather than sending anything Orlando’s way, the source said, the Nets could just sit tight and not repeat the mistake made last spring by the Knicks, who surrendered half their rotation for Carmelo Anthony. ‘Melo was likely to sign with the Knicks that summer, anyway.
The Nets believe no team will give Orlando anything of substance to rent Howard for two, maybe three months, then watch him leave and sign with the Nets. Also, the Nets feel the Magic won’t accept hefty contracts from another team for a Dwight rental. In any event, even if Howard is a rental, Howard and the Nets hold the hammer in the situation, and both parties are unwilling to put a stripped down team on the floor next season with Dwight and possibly Deron Williams.
Howard did not address the media tonight before the Magic’s game in San Antonio. A report from Orlando said Howard would agree to exercise his option for next season and stay in Orlando at least through 2012-13. But that report was refuted by Howard and his agent, Dan Fegan, in a brief conference call with Magic officials just before tipoff.
Therefore, here’s where it stands: Howard would like to stay with the Magic the rest of the season because Orlando is one of the better teams in the East right now. But the Magic, fearing a repeat of Shaquille O’Neal, want a signed contract extension before the trade deadline. Without that, team officials repeated today that they will explore all options that would be in the best interests of the franchise.
Exactly what constitutes “best interests” is the question. Should Orlando accept just anything in a trade, just to save face, just to say it received something for Dwight? Does that include bad contracts, or long contracts, or players good enough to keep Orlando a mediocre team — not good enough to challenge for a title, not bad enough to land a high lottery pick?
Howard addressed his Orlando teammates this morning and told them to stay the course. He did not, according to reports, tell his teammates he would stay through another season.
Then, after the Magic lost to the Spurs in what might be his final game with Orlando, Howard was mostly mum about his future in his postgame comments.
It was a day that began with reports saying Howard had told his teammates in a morning meeting that he had decided to “opt-in” and remain with the Magic for one more season. And it was an evening that ended with a career 59 percent shooter making a pair of free throws with 87 seconds left to play, probably his last points in an Orlando uniform.
In other words, absolutely anything seemed possible.
Except, of course, for Howard to finally stop playing his will-he-or-won’t-games.
“I don’t know what you all want out of me,” he asked a throng of cameras and reporters.
Well, a straight answer, for a start.
Did he tell his teammates he was staying in Orlando?
“My teammates know what we talked about in that meeting,” he said. “You guys already know. It was on the ticker. You guys got your sources.”
Howard spent much of the night being aggressive and effective for 22 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots and then spent an hour in the locker room being alternately petulant and aggrieved.
“I love my teammates,” he said. “I think we’re in a great position to win. Like I told the ownership, I want to stick it out and go from there. They know how I feel. They know how I feel about the city. I’ve sat down with them on numerous occasions and talked about what we can do together. But I can’t do it all by myself. I want them to help. I want them to be involved with changing Orlando. That’s always been my goal.”
The latest move of going public with a plea for the Magic to “roll the dice” and keep him through the end of the season without any guarantee on his end is the height audaciousness. To mix the gambling metaphor, he wants Orlando ownership to sit down with him at the poker table wearing a blindfold while he sifts through the entire deck and deals himself a royal flush.
“It’s on them now,” Howard said. “I’ve done my job. I haven’t changed. Despite whatever’s being said, I’m still the same person. So if you want to scrutinize me for taking care of Dwight, that’s fine.”
After those comments came an early, deadline-day morning report from RealGM.com stating that Howard would opt-in for the 2012-13 season and said he received some “bad advice” throughout this process:
Howard confirmed to RealGM on Wednesday evening that he will terminate his early termination option and stay in Orlando for at least the 12-13 season.
Howard also realizes the impact that his indecision has caused and wants to make things right in the city that has watched him grow both professionally and personally since he came into the NBA in 2004 as the first overall pick.
“Man, listen, you know my heart, my soul and everything I have is in Orlando,” Howard told RealGM. “I just can’t leave it behind.”
Dealing with such a big decision was new territory for Howard.
To help with the process he sought advice from people he believed had his best interest in mind. All the while, his heart remained in Orlando. While he wanted to keep his options open, Howard’s intentions were never to alienate his teammates, coaches or general manager.
The circumstances, however, spiraled out of control and turned into something he never wanted to happen. Howard was very remorseful for the situation that he created, but eager to turn it around and show everyone who has been hurt by his actions how much he appreciates them and how sorry he is for Wednesday’s events.
“I have gotten some bad advice,” Howard said. “I apologize for this circus I have caused to the fans of our city. They didn’t deserve none of this. I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart. I will do whatever I can to make this right and do what I was put in Orlando to do.”
There are less than 10 hours left until Dwight and/or the Magic make up their mind about the future, but as we’ve seen so far, things are never quite what they seem in this situation.