Posts Tagged ‘Magic’

Oladipo Ready To Make His Point


ORLANDO, Fla. — It was one thing for Victor Oladipo to take the floor in his first summer league game and fill up the box score with a handful of impressive stats. He stuck in 3-pointers and got to the basket with his speed and aggression.

But the nod of heads among members of the Magic coaching staff said they were just as impressed the next day when the ball was bouncing off the rim and shots weren’t falling. That’s when the No. 2 pick in the draft gave that he just might be able to play some time at point guard, as they’d hoped.

“Shooting guard, point guard, whatever you want to call me, it doesn’t matter,” Oladipo said. “I just think of myself as a guard and I’ll do whatever the coaches want me to do. I don’t want to limit myself or any possibilities with a label or a position.”

James Borrego, the Magic’s summer league head coach has put Oladipo at both backcourt spots at different times in games and has been satisfied with the results.

“I’ve thought he’s looked solid,” Borrego said. “He’s a guy that takes what the defense gives him and doesn’t try to force something that isn’t there. Teams will apply pressure and test his skill, but he’s responded well and got us into our sets. He’s been aggressive, looked for his shot and found open bodies. We put him in the pick and roll a lot to see what he could do. And overall we were very pleased with his effort.’’

Oladipo’s high energy made him a star last season at Indiana and that’s the attribute the Magic want most as a leader to ignite this young team. What he doesn’t lack is confidence and what he won’t do is back down from a challenge. He’s ready to push at his limits and try to measure up against the established scoring point guards in the league such as Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker.

“I’m up for all of it,” Oladipo said. “I’m a rookie, but all those guys were rookies once, too. Everybody’s got to start out somewhere and build their game. I just don’t want the building to take too long.”

The 6-foot-4, 215 pounder has both the speed and the size to thrive by driving to the basket, can create his own shots and can make jumpers coming off screens.

“I’ve never played [point] at any other level, so it’s a little challenging just because you don’t want them to speed you up. You’ve still got to run all the plays, but you’ve got to pick you times when to be aggressive and when not to be aggressive.

“Whatever you want me to play, I’ll play. “If you want me to come off ball screens, I’ll come off ball screens and if you want me to set up the offense I’ll set up the offense. If you want me to stand in the corner and shoot, I’ll do it because that’s how badly I want to win.’’

Does Mike D’Antoni Help Or Hurt The Lakers’ Cause With Dwight Howard?


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Houston’s Kevin McHale got the first crack at making a lasting impression on Dwight Howard, and from all indications did exactly that. Golden State’s Mark Jackson and Atlanta’s Mike Budenholzer acquitted themselves quite well, too, in their face-to-face meetings with Howard.

Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, easily one of the league’s top coaches and one of the smartest and most accomplished basketball minds around, is up next when the Mavericks’ contingent makes its sales pitch to Howard this afternoon. Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni has some ridiculously tough acts to follow. The fact that he’s one of the only coaches on Howard’s list of contenders who has actually worked with the prized free agent big man should be to his (and the Lakers’) benefit.

But if the rumblings about Howard and D’Antoni struggling to find common ground during their lone season together are true, D’Antoni’s seat alongside Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, stars Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash and others at Howard’s final recruiting session this evening in Los Angeles might not be the trump card it should be.

In fact, it’s not unreasonable to wonder: is D’Antoni helping or hurting the Lakers’ cause here? For all of the stars who have lined up to woo Howard, all of the owners, living legends, titans of industry and what have you, no one is more important than these respective coaches.

They have to be front and center during this process with a clear-cut plan that details exactly how they will take advantage of Howard’s skills and what they’ll do to exploit them in a way that leads to championships.

Given Howard’s recent past with coaches (see Stan Van Gundy, Orlando), it’s not hard to overstate the importance of the coach-player dynamic in whatever becomes his final choice.

The Los Angeles Clippers took care of that extremely important piece of business with their own free-agent star, Chris Paul, by dumping Vinny Del Negro after the best season in franchise history and pursuing and landing Doc Rivers to replace him and take over the role as the Clippers’ senior vice president of basketball operations. Via Twitter, Paul committed to the Clippers Monday morning and will sign a five-year, $107 million deal come July 10.

Howard is extremely sensitive about the sentiment that he’s some sort of “coach killer,” as he should be, because there are few tags more damaging to a superstar’s profile.

“That’s a tough thing to live down once you get it,” said one Western Conference executive. “That’s the knock on Dwight right now, whether he likes it or not. Everyone knows he’d had issues with his last two coaches and that’s why you know whatever is there with D’Antoni would have to be fixed before he could honestly think about staying with the Lakers. There’s no way around it.”

If Howard decides he’d rather play elsewhere, D’Antoni will get plenty of blame — deserved or not. And that’s what makes his role today so crucial. With Bryant and Nash (two of D’Antoni’s greatest allies) flanking him, he has a chance to clean up whatever mess is there and do his best to talk Howard back into the fold.

We might never get any real answers anyway. Howard has never come clean on what went down with Van Gundy, even though their disconnect led to the dissolution of a championship-caliber team in Orlando. He will have a chance to walk away from the Lakers this time without having to publicly address the D’Antoni situation. But that won’t stop any of us from speculating.

And it certainly won’t silence the Lakers fans who are already convinced that D’Antoni ruined any chance of Howard sticking around, even with the $30 million and extra contract year the Lakers can offer that no one else can.

One of D’Antoni’s colleagues came to his defense, insisting that if Howard chooses one of his other options, it won’t be because of any rift — real or perceived — between Howard and D’Antoni.

“Don’t make this about Mike, that’s not fair to him,” said an Eastern Conference coach who knows D’Antoni well and has coached against Howard for years. “This is [Dwight's] thing. He has to own it and make it right. Blaming Mike for anything that hasn’t gone his way the last couple of years is just wrong. This is Dwight’s choice, he has to make it, own it and get back on the floor and do what he does. And I know people are convinced that he’s already gone, but I’m not in that crowd. I think he’s going to stay in L.A.”

Six Sensible Picks For Coaching Success


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Raise your hand, you twisted souls, if you’re ready for another episode of the Dwight Howard-Stan Van Gundy show.

Even Hawks fans, a group starved for both star power on the roster and stability with the coaching staff, are wary of the potential pairing of these former Orlando Magic stalwarts in the ATL. Their deteriorating relationship marred their final season together in a situation that was anything but magic in Orlando.

But when the coaching carousel kicks up this time of year, and a half-dozen or so different teams are picking over the same small pool of elite coaching candidates, all things are possible.

Van Gundy, and his brother, Jeff Van Gundy, are going to be on short lists everywhere, along with Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan, Larry Brown and whoever the assistant coach(es) du jour might be.

What looks good on paper and sounds sweet in theory, however, doesn’t always hold up in reality. Multiple reports of Stan Van Gundy being pursued by the Hawks, who have announced that they will explore all options in determining who replaces Larry Drew (if they replace him), make perfect sense. Hawks GM Danny Ferry is in the process of rebuilding his roster and needs a coach on board before the Draft.

“I have great appreciation and respect for Larry and how he led our team this season,” Ferry told Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Saturday. “At the same time, it is my responsibility and in the best interests of the Hawks organization to consider all of our options, and talk with other potential head coaches before making a decision about who will lead our basketball team. Larry and I have had open communication about this approach. If Larry and I continue to work together, we ultimately will be a stronger organization because of our discussions and this thorough process.”

That’s an eloquent way of stating the obvious: that the Hawks plan on moving on from the past nine years (Drew was an assistant under current Knicks Mike Woodson during his six seasons with Atlanta before Drew spent the last three season its coach). And it’s understandable. No one will blame Ferry for making a clean break from the Hawks’ recent past, provided he upgrades the coaching situation and the roster with all of that $33 million in cap space and the four Draft picks the Hawks will be armed with this summer.

The burning question remains, then, is Stan Van a legitimate upgrade?

He did take the Magic to The Finals in 2009, the Miami Heat to the Eastern Conference finals (2005) and did the same with Orlando (2010). But he was shown the door in both places after his star players grew tired of his grinding ways. Weighing the pros and cons of Stan Van being the face and voice of your franchise heading into a huge free-agent summer is a risky proposition for the Hawks, one that Ferry is surely aware of as he continues to sort through the process of finding the right coach.

There are five other current openings around the league, with another one (Los Angeles Clippers … ?) still looming. With a bevy of candidates, we take a look at who fits best where and why …

Atlanta Hawks: Mike Malone, assistant coach Golden State Warriors

In a realm where it’s often who you know as well as what you know, Malone can check those boxes with the Hawks. He’s done stellar work with the Warriors, helping guide them into a prime time position this postseason under Mark Jackson. He also worked under Mike Brown in Cleveland when Ferry ran that franchise. Malone is a nuts-and-bolts coach who won’t come with the baggage of some of the more recognizable candidates for the job. He’s universally respected and will likely be on the interview list for every opening out there.

Brooklyn Nets: Jeff Van Gundy, ABC/ESPN analyst

No available coach has a better handle on the rigors of guiding a team in the New York area. Van Gundy’s Knicks history, along with his work on ABC and ESPN broadcasts, has kept him in the forefront of a lot of people’s minds. He’s got the coaching chops required to manage a complex and talented roster that clearly needs a guiding force to reach its potential. His former partner in the booth, Mark Jackson, has done wonders in his first coaching stint in Golden State. Van Gundy could work similar magic with a Nets team that underachieved this season.

Charlotte Bobcats: Larry Drew, coach Atlanta Hawks

Drew worked alongside Bobcats owner Michael Jordan when they were both in Washington, so there is plenty of familiarity there. He also impressed many around the league with the work he did in an impossible situation in Atlanta the past three seasons. Even with constant changes on the roster and in the front office, Drew coached the Hawks to three straight playoff appearances. He would walk into a situation in Charlotte that looks a lot like the one he walked into with the Hawks nine years ago. That blueprint for thriving in the face of adversity could come in handy for the Bobcats.

Detroit Pistons: Jerry Sloan, former coach Utah Jazz

The Pistons have a roster filled with talented young players in need of guidance and direction. That’s the idea fit for a disciplinarian like Sloan, who could work wonders with bigs Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond in particular. Sloan’s Jazz teams were known for being the model of consistency. He won with superstar talent (Karl Malone and John Stockton) and kept on winning after they retired. The Pistons have had their greatest success in recent years under another veteran coach, Larry Brown, and could return to relevance under Sloan.

Milwaukee Bucks: David Fizdale, assistant coach Miami Heat

With the Big 3 in Miami, most of the attention has been strictly on the players. But Erik Spoelstra‘s key hire since taking over as coach in Miami was luring Fizdale away from the Hawks. He’s considered one of the brightest up-and-coming coaching candidates in the league and has done fantastic work with the continued development of both Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. Luring him away from a championship situation in Miami won’t be easy for the Bucks or anyone else. But Fizdale has designs on running his own team and working with Bucks GM John Hammond would be a good place to get that first shot.

Philadelphia 76ers: Stan Van Gundy, former coach Orlando Magic

After the emotional roller coaster that was the Doug Collins experience, Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes and the rest of the Sixers’ young core need a savvy veteran to deal with, not a first-time coach who would have to transition to a new gig in a city known for chewing up the strongest of personalities.  Stan Van gives the Sixers a bold personality to lead the way and an absolute technician of the game to help push the right buttons for a team that needs the sort of stewardship he tried to provide in Orlando.

The Day Shaq Returned To Orlando

HANG TIME WEST – In typical Shaquille O’Neal larger-than-life style, the Big Redundancy had two first returns to Orlando as Lakers center, as Dwight Howard does tonight an NBA generation later, only nothing like Dwight Howard does tonight.

While Howard will have to face the fans of Central Florida but will mostly avoid the wrath of the Magic players because of the roster turnover from last season and this one, O’Neal got hit on both fronts. Twice. With musical accompaniment.

In the other true Shaq style, he brought a lot of it on himself. Bolting from the Magic to the Lakers in the summer of 1996 would have been cause enough for boiling emotions in Orlando, but he made matters worse. O’Neal mocked Orlando as a “dried-up little pond” (to be compounded years later when his coach, Phil Jackson, called the city “plastic”), did little to hide his disdain for top management and coach Brian Hill, and tweaked some players there. So of course they were ready when the Lakers made their lone visit of 1996-97.

It barely mattered that O’Neal was long sidelined by a knee injury. He stopped off at the arena to drop off Lakers security man Jerome Crawford, did a little small talk, and drove off to, he said, watch the game on TV. Then he got roasted in abstention as the Magic won 110-84.

“I knew Shaq wasn’t going to show up,” Orlando forward Horace Grant said that day. “He talks a lot, but I knew he wasn’t going to show up.”

“Say what you have to say,” Nick Anderson, one of the former teammates O’Neal had singled out for criticism, “but if you’re so much of a man and you’re in town, why not come here?”

One of the signs by a fan:



That was March 23, 1997. Eleven months later – on Feb. 22, 1998 – the Lakers and a healthy O’Neal were back in Orlando for the actual homecoming.

In the minutes before tipoff, the Magic blasted a portion of “I’m a Loser” by the Beatles over the loud speaker, followed by a bit of Carly Simon with “You’re so Vain,” then the Steve Miller Band and “Take the Money and Run” and “Would I Lie to You?” by The Eurythmics. Fans booed loudly, although not at great length, when O’Neal was brought out for pregame introductions and then every time he touched the ball.

The signs:




We’re the two

that saw your


O’Neal finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds, but the Magic won 96-94 on Anderson’s 3-pointer with 7.1 seconds remaining.

“Am I going to go home and drink a whole bottle of Pine Sol?” O’Neal asked, probably rhetorically. “No. We’ve just got to move on. They did what they were supposed to do, win a home game.

“Every arena I go to, I get booed.”

Except, a reporter noted, this is the arena where you used to get cheered.

“Used to,” Shaq responded. “Used to. I used to drive a Porsche, but I don’t anymore. I’ve moved on.”

At some point, his former team and city did as well. Only to have to go through it again in 2013.

Dwight Howard Imagined Having To Retire

Lakers center Dwight Howard said he briefly imagined his career being over eight months ago when doctors said a herniated disc caused nerve damage in his left leg that could have forced him to retire.

“I did for a couple days,” Howard said Saturday night after the Lakers beat the Warriors at Oracle Arena.

What became a final season in Orlando, a contentious split marred by his wavering on a future with the Magic, ended with April 20 surgery, sidelining the three-time Defensive Player of the Year for the playoffs and the Olympics with Team USA. But Howard said the full extent of the injury was not known publicly, and that while he is still not 100 percent while playing for the Lakers, he is far ahead of the original timetable.

“When I got hurt, I lost my whole left leg, basically, from my nerves,” he said. “That takes at least nine months to get that strength back. I was able to get some of it back in a couple of months. But it’s always a process. I wish that it would all come back right away, but this is a great time for me to work on other parts of my game that’ll make myself better and also make the team better.

“It’s really, at this point, not even my back. The injury I had caused my whole left leg to just lose all strength. My nerves were severely damaged. It takes a while for those nerves to grow back and for you to have enough strength to play. All that stuff is coming back slowly. There’s still days, like I said, where I feel really good, and there’s day when I’m not so good. But it’s all a process. I’m pretty sure at the end of the year I’ll feel a lot better than I do now.

“If I would have waited until after the season (to have the operation), if I would have tried to continue to play, then I probably wouldn’t be able to play anymore. I had to do it right away. I didn’t want to risk my career for some playoff games. They were important for me, but my health is important.”

Traded to the Lakers as part of a four-team blockbuster on August 10, Howard is averaging 17.8 points, 11.9 rebounds, 2.59 blocks and 36.4 minutes, second-most on the team behind Kobe Bryant. He has played all 27 games.

It’s Not The End Of the World, But…

HANG TIME, Texas — Go ahead, take another look at that Miami logo.

Maybe the Mayans weren’t predicting the end of the world for Dec. 21, 2012, but the beginning of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh raining down on the planet in the fiery start to the Heat dynasty. Just missed it by six months.

Of course, if the Mayans were so good at predicting the future, there might still be Mayans.

Or as the famous Peanuts cartoonist Charles M. Schulz once reassured: “Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It’s already tomorrow in Australia.”

That said, there are a few things we wouldn’t mind seeing wiped off Planet NBA permanently:

P.A. screamers — We don’t need a courtside announcer to bellow that there are “Dos Minutos!” left in the game or to screech that it’s proper fan etiquette for the home crowd to make sure the visiting player is shooting “Two nooissssy free throws!” Doing the basics of the job would suffice, such as pronouncing names correctly. Though it’s too late for the former 7-foot-6 All-Star center of the Rockets, we would like you to become just the slightest bit worldly and understand that last basket was scored by Yao, not Ming. And we can only hope that more than a few of you to learn that it’s not RAY-jon Rondo.

Back-to-backs — In the days of private charter jet travel, computer programs and individual game tickets that cost in the hundreds — and even thousands — of dollars, there is no reason to keep selling an inferior product. When one team is rested and the other is flying in from having played the night before, it is the fan who is negatively affected most. Yes, some teams are different than others, but there is no reason that gap should be widened or closed by an uneven playing field. Since neither players or owners will accept the financial cutbacks necessary to play a 66-game schedule, there is another way. Eliminate virtually all of the preseason, start the regular season two weeks earlier, run the schedule two weeks longer and eliminate the exclusivity window that restricts the number of teams that can play on Thursdays. In addition to competitive balance, it’s time the paying customer doesn’t sit through a night where one team looks like the zombies from “The Walking Dead.”

Whining about Hack-a-Shaq – There are few things more deplorable than watching a supposed All-Star center stand at the foul line and struggle to make 50 percent of his free throws. The one thing that is worse is listening to the apologists who want to outlaw the intentional foul. If a batter in baseball can’t hit the curve, should he be allowed to request only fastballs? Try hypnosis, green tea, reciting poetry and going to your happy place while standing at the stripe. Or just shut up and stay in the gym until you learn to perform a fundamental part of the game.

Mascot skits — We understand that it’s not just a game anymore, but a full “entertainment experience.” Yet there are too many of the furry/silly mascots who don’t grasp the fact that their primary job is supposed to be generating enthusiasm for the team. When the home team is on a 10-0 tear, the visitors are disorganized and forced to call timeout, that is the occasion to keep the crowd cheering and whipped into a frenzy, not trot out a corny routine that you hope will one day get you an invite to “Inside the Actors Studio.”

Pointless fastbreaks — How many times will we be forced to watch a team come down the floor with a 2-on-1 or even 3-on-1 advantage and see a pass back outside for a 3-pointer rather than taking the ball all the way to the hoop? The analytics crowd can have their effective field goal percentage. A lot of folks would prefer to see a guard handle the ball in the middle of the floor and dish to a wingman for a simple layup or dunk. Wasn’t it good enough for Magic Johnson and Larry Bird?

Offensive basket interference — In effort to have the game played by the same rules all around the world, it’s time the NBA went with the international community and made any ball live and in play once it hits the rim. It means the ball could be swatted off the rim by a defender or tapped or pushed down into the basket by an offensive player. The play requires not just leaping ability, but timing and skill and does not happen as often as you might think in international play or in the NBA D-League, which is experimenting with the rule. For the anti-Hack-a-Shaq crowd, it could even help Dwight Howard with his free throws if a teammate was there to clean up his misses.

All-Star voting outrage — It’s time that the purists stopped the annual carping that accompanies the release of each round of vote totals. We know that Anderson Varejao, Greg Monroe, O.J. Mayo and Stephen Curry are having the kind of starts to this season that merit attention and admiration. But the All-Star Game is purely a popularity contest and, let’s face, it, everybody wants to watch LeBron, Carmelo, Kobe and CP3.

The Magic-D12 Reunion? Not Quite Yet …

Dwight Howard faces the Magic for the first time as an opponent tonight, not counting all those times the last couple years when it felt like he was on the other side.

Maybe this is better: Dwight Howard is on the opposing team for the first time tonight as the Magic face Howard and the Lakers in Los Angeles. Small change in wording, big difference overall.

This isn’t really the reunion, though, not by any semantics. March 12 — Howard’s first game back in Orlando — is the reunion. That’s when the real emotions will boil up as fans in central Florida finally get the chance in person to wish Howard well on all his future endeavors.

A Sunday night in Staples Center doesn’t come close. The only potential for ugly is when Howard steps to the free-throw line, and the blame for whatever goes wrong there will obviously belong to Mike Brown anyway. The Magic have a new coach, a new basketball-ops staff, and only five holdovers who were Howard teammates last season: Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, Glen Davis, Hedo Turkoglu and Ish Smith.

There is the angle, as Josh Robbins noted in the Orlando Sentinel, that “Howard’s trade request, coupled with his subsequent stay-or-go saga, strained his friendships with some players on the Magic roster.” But the Magic are 5-10 and heading into a stretch of five road games in eight days, while the Lakers have lost three of five and have several better soap-opera plots to choose from.

So, there are a lot more pressing issues for both sides than whether Redick is out for blood. This one ranks somewhere in the 20s of compelling Lakers moments of the season so far.

Friday night, after Howard had 28 points and 20 rebounds in the victory over the Nuggets, he was asked about the emotions heading into Sunday’s game against the Magic.

“Well, you know, it’s going to be a little weird playing against my former team,” Howard said, according to the Sentinel. “But we need a good win and (to) come out with a lot of energy. So I’m going to put all my effort into getting ready for the next game and playing with a lot of intensity and just having fun.”

There is that much. Tonight will be a little weird.

A reporter followed up by asking whether Howard remains friends with any current Magic players or whether he put the relationships on hold.

“Well, you know,” Howard said, pausing, “I put it on hold.”

The same goes with the actual Howard-Magic reunion. That is in March.

Dwight Repentant, Sort Of

Mr. and Mrs. America, from border to border and coast to coast and all the ships at sea.

News flash: Dwight Howard says he could have done some things better last season in Orlando.

Ya think?

On the eve of tonight’s first meeting with his former team at Staples Center, the 26-year-old lovable lunk turned Walter Winchell told Ramona Shelburne of ESPN/Los Angeles that somehow both sides were at fault when he spent the better part of the 2011-12 season jumping back and forth across the fence like a confused bullfrog.

“It doesn’t really matter to talk about it now. It’s over and done with,” he said. “There are a lot of things we both could’ve done, but at the end of the day, it happened just the way it was supposed to happen. There was a reason behind everything. We might not see it or understand it at the time, but there was a reason why everything happened the way it happened and I think it made both parties stronger.”

Of course, the fans of the 5-10 Magic, who watched their team again get stripped down to its chassis and left up on milk crates might disagree, but Howard says they have a place in his heart.

“I will always be grateful. They gave me an opportunity, Rich and the rest of the DeVos family,” Howard said. “They wanted me to come in, change the city and we did some great things, despite how everything ended. Our team and the organization, we opened up a lot of doors for fans and businesses around the city, with the new arena and all that stuff. We had some unbelievable years. There’s no reason for anybody to hold their heads on what happened in Orlando. At the end of the day, there had to be a business decision.”

Howard said he understands why fans in Orlando might have ill will toward him, but hoped with time they could forgive and understand why he requested a trade.

“It’s my job to let people know that when you get traded or ask for a trade from a team, it has nothing to do with a city or the fan base,” he said. “It’s a business decision. Yeah, it may affect people because that’s their team that they love and they want to see their team do good, but at the end of the day we only get one shot at this and I have to do what I believe is going to be best for me.”

Translation: Please don’t mention my 47 percent free-throw shooting when we get to Orlando on March 12.

Five Teams In The Danger Zone

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Of all the lists your team could make here at the hideout, this is the one you don’t want to see them on.

Making the top five or bottom five is at least a definitive indicator of where you teams fits in the NBA’s bigger picture. But when you make HT’s Danger Zone List, the only thing we know for sure is that we’re not sure exactly where your team fits this season.

They might have the pieces to be special.

But what if the pieces don’t fit together?

And again, it’s not about the teams that won’t make the playoffs this season (you know who you are) or the teams that might be headed for a cliff. It’s about the teams that remain a mystery to us with the start of training camps around the league just a few days away.

It’s that sort of uncertainty that led our crack research staff to these five teams …


Howard On The Move In China, While His Q Score In Orlando Continues To Drop

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Just when you think Dwight Howard‘s Q score in Orlando couldn’t sink any lower comes news that the former Magic and now Lakers big man is in China  on a shoe company-sponsored promotional tour. And this comes two weeks after he didn’t make it to Orlando for a basketball camp for kids in Orlando, as the Orlando Sentinel was quick to point out.

We’re not going to judge, since we don’t know what sort of doctor’s orders Howard was operating on in either instance. But strictly from a perception standpoint, this one stings, especially for the kids still heartbroken that their favorite player bolted town and blew off their camp in the same two-week stretch.

A few more details from Josh Robbins of the Sentinel:

Dan Fegan, Howard’s agent, deferred to adidas officials when asked why Howard flew overseas but did not appear two weeks earlier at his Orlando day camp. In a statement issued to the Orlando Sentinel, adidas officials said Howard was cleared to travel “just last week.”

In the statement, adidas officials said: “Since Dwight’s injury our focus has been on his recovery. His health has continued to improve and just last week he was cleared to travel. We are excited that Dwight is now able to participate in fan and community events as he continues to prepare for the NBA season. Dwight is an amazing athlete and outstanding partner with fans around the world.”

To be sure, Howard had remained in Southern California almost all summer after spending large portions of the 2011 offseason traveling to such locations as China, Japan, Mongolia, Russia, Spain and Tanzania.

This trip is supposed to be shorter than Howard’s prior trips to the Far East. Also, Gregg Darbyshire, the chief executive of ProCamps Worldwide, the company that runs Howard’s camps, said that, as far as he knows, Howard’s previously scheduled camp for kids in China has been canceled.

Granted, Howard savaged his Q score all last season with the foolishness that was his trade request (and the obligatory denials of said request, all 15 of them) and the eight months of nonsense that revolved around that circus.

Honestly, we can’t think of a whole lot Howard can do to improve his image until the next high-profile superstar — pick anyone — forces his way out of  town. Or  the Lakers win a title.