HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — You had to know this story wasn’t going to have a happy ending.
Magic center Dwight Howard has made sure of it, now that he’s finally broken his silence about the bizarre turn of events surrounding his future with the organization that drafted him and the one he is demanding he be traded to. All indications for the latter is Brooklyn, even though Howard still refuses to say it publicly.
Howard, in an interview with Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, reiterated his demand for a trade request from Orlando and shot down an ESPN story that cited sources saying he accused the Magic of “blackmailing” him into signing away his right to enter free agency this summer:
“I never used the word blackmail in reference to any of my dealings with the Magic,” Howard said. “I never said that. It’s defamatory and it’s inaccurate. I know what blackmail means and any report that I used the term incorrectly is inaccurate.”
Howard met with new Magic general manager Rob Hennigan on Friday in Los Angeles, and said he told Hennigan of his desire to be traded. However, Howard insisted he was merely repeating a position he had made clear to Magic officials since waiving his ETO in March.
“This was not the first time [that I asked for trade],” Howard said. “I communicated this to [Magic president] Alex [Martins] and [former general manager] Otis [Smith] way before Friday that I wanted to be traded – months before this meeting with Rob Hennigan. That was all way before Stan [Van Gundy] got fired.”
Howard’s bottom-line declaration that the Magic trade him now, to the unspecified team on “his list,” or play out the season and watch him walk away in free agency after the season leaves all involved in the same position they’ve been in for months.
It also guarantees that the divorce between Howard, the Magic and the city of Orlando will be as nasty as anything we’ve seen in recent years. That list includes the nasty split between LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Howard’s denials about using the word blackmail and his bruised ego — the result of the media and fan backlash he’s faced since this ridiculous affair began — don’t change the fact that he’s been dishonest from the start about his trade demand.
This is the first time he’s actually come clean publicly about that.
Howard had every opportunity to control his own fate before March 15, when he signed away that early termination option in his contract. The minute he signed that waiver, he sealed his new reputation as the biggest drama king in basketball.
No amount of success in the future will erase the preposterous plot twists of the past seven months from Howard’s story. He’s gone from being one of the most beloved players in the league and the leading vote-getter in fan balloting for the 2012 All-Star Game to a player held in the same regard as James was after “The Decision.”
There might not be any burning jerseys this time around, there’s no hugging this one out, as George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel made clear this morning:
I think I can speak for the entire City of Orlando on this deal.
See you. As they say in my original language: Fuera!
When and where do you want us to sign the divorce papers?
Here are some of the printable comments on staydwight.com, a web site created by my friend Ryan Totka hoping to persuade Dwight to stay here and continue chasing an NBA title with the Magic:
“He’s a childish, diva [expletive].”
“OMG just go already…”
“Maybe it’s time to shut down staydwight.com and start a leavedwight.com page.”
“If u need help i will help you get the hell out of city beautiful myself!!!!”
And so it shall be.
Howard wants to go to the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets, but let’s hope new Magic Rob Hennigan plays hardball and doesn’t take the table scrapes the Nets can put together.
The Brook Lopez era?
One thing is certain: The Dwight Howard era is over in Orlando.
And at this point, fans would rather kick him out the door than thank him for the memories.