HANG TIME, TEXAS— No matter where he plays next season, Dwight Howard should have his agent sign an endorsement deal with IHOP. Only a pancake griddle has more flip-flops than his story.
He’s going. He’s staying. He’s going. He’s staying. He plans to retire and become a coconut farmer on an island in the South Pacific. OK, we made that last one up. We think.
After meeting on Wednesday with new Magic general manager Rob Hennigan, the word is that the All-Star center wants to be in L.A. in this summer, Brooklyn in January or Dallas next July.
But according to Jarrod Rudolph of RealGM, the one scenario that Howard will not consider for a moment is a return to Orlando for the 2012-13 season:
Hennigan’s pitch to Howard had a heavy focus on the two men developing a relationship that would be valuable to the Magic moving forward. He expressed a sincere interest in getting to know the six-time All-Star and working with him to improve the team. Howard, however, was expecting an outline of how the team planned to improve and get back to a championship-contending level, something he didn’t receive during the hour-long meeting, according to sources. Howard was staunch in his stance and again made it clear to Hennigan that he has no desire to return to Orlando. He told the 30-year-old general manager that he would “never sign another contract with the Magic,” according to sources that spoke with RealGM. During the meeting, Howard informed Hennigan that he would be willing to re-sign with the Lakers at the end of the 12-13 season if the two teams were able to complete a trade.
The scenarios Howard was open to during the meeting were: An immediate trade to the Lakers, a January trade to the Brooklyn Nets or a clean break at the end of the 2012-13 season. But he was clear that he would not return to the Magic, choosing to leave as a free agent after the season, sources told RealGM. Hennigan informed Howard that he didn’t have any deals in the works and wasn’t quite sure how to respond to what he was told, according to sources. Hennigan was noncommittal on any of the discussed scenarios as the meeting ended. Hennigan’s noncommittal approach has only frustrated Howard more as it’s believed that several acceptable offers have been presented to the Magic only to be turned down due to a lack of a true intent to trade him, sources said.
As if all that weren’t enough to dump in the lap of Hennigan, who has been on the job for just over a month, Howard said that if a deal satisfactory to him could not be reached by the trade deadline, he plans to play out his contract and sign with Mark Cuban’s Mavericks when he becomes a free agent in 2013. That comes from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:
“Dwight remained unchanged in his want to be traded,” a source with knowledge of the meeting said. “And he has no intention of signing another contract extension with Orlando.”
Dwight Howard remains steadfast in his demand to be traded to the Lakers.
Without a deal that would deliver him to the Lakers in the near future, sources said Howard wants Henningan to revisit trade talks with the Brooklyn Nets in January, when center Brook Lopez is eligible to be traded. If deals don’t surface with the Lakers or Nets, Howard plans to sign with the Dallas Mavericks as a free agent in the summer of 2013.
While the Lakers and Nets won’t have the salary cap space to sign Howard, nor the opportunity to execute a sign-and-trade deal under new CBA rules, the Mavericks will be flush with cap space next summer. Mavs owner Mark Cuban plans to make a run at Howard, and potentially another star player, to join Dirk Nowitzki.
While we feel for Hennigan, who is only trying to examine every possibility and do what’s best for the Magic franchise going forward, it’s pretty clear now that he has reached at least one dead end. After all that he’s put the loyal fans of Orlando through over the past eight months, including the disingenuous act of signing away his ability to “opt out” as a free agent last March, did anyone really think Howard was going to face the music and wear a Magic jersey onto the floor at the Amway Center in the long term?
Henningan is now in virtually the same position as Masai Ujiri, another first-year GM, in Denver two seasons ago when Carmelo Anthony had the Nuggets over a similar barrel. He’s talked, he’s cajoled, he’s pleaded, he’s given it his best shot. Now it’s time to simply sit down and hammer out the best deal that he can make for Howard.
In the end, Ujiri got a nice package of Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, Wilson Chandler and Raymond Felton, along with draft picks from the Knicks. When he flipped Felton to Portland for Andre Miller a few months after Denver’s 2011 playoff appearance, the Nuggets had a core of their playoff team that is happy going forward.
It’s time for the Magic to start moving forward as well and without delay. By waiting until January to deal with Brooklyn when Lopez becomes trade eligible, he would be continuing an untenable situation that could become ugly in Orlando.
The choices seem to be either swapping Howard to the Lakers or taking the bundle of young players and draft picks he could get from Houston and letting the erstwhile Superman become the Rockets’ problem.
Except for orders at IHOP, the time for flip-flipping is done.