The Dwight Howard Mess
On Saturday Chris Broussard of ESPN.com reported Dwight Howard again told the Magic, this time through new General Manager Rob Hennigan, he wanted to be traded to the Brooklyn Nets.
The two met Friday in Los Angeles.
The biggest revelation in the story was that Howard supposedly contacted the NBA Player’s Association, claiming the Magic “blackmailed” him in an attempt to become an unrestricted free agent so he could be free to sign with the Nets outright this summer.
Howard denied ever using the term “blackmail” when he spoke with Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.
“I never used the word blackmail in reference to any of my dealings with the Magic. I never said that,” Howard told Yahoo Sports. “It’s defamatory and it’s inaccurate. I know what blackmail means and any report that I used the term incorrectly is inaccurate.”
Howard went to say there is “only one team on my list and if I don’t get traded there, I’ll play the season out and explore my free agency after that.”
Although Howard wouldn’t say which team he would re-sign with, it’s pretty easy to surmise that team is the Brooklyn Nets.
Howard went on to say they he has asked for a trade on several occasions, saying he asked Magic CEO Alex Martins and former General Manager Otis Smith to trade him “months” before his Friday meeting with new General Manager Rob Hennigan.
Howard told Wojnarowski he felt “upset” and “hurt” by everything that has gone on, including the notion that he was faking his back injury.
Where Do The Magic Go From Here?
Clearly, the situation is beyond repair.
That means the Magic will have to trade Howard at some point before the trade deadline to prevent him from leaving in free agency with no return.
It appears as though the Magic would like to do that sooner rather than later and have opened up talks with several teams, including the Nets, Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets.
The Nets, are of course, Howard’s desired destination, but they really lack anything in the way of assets. The biggest of their assets is restricted free agent Brook Lopez, who would first have to sign a new deal before being traded to Orlando. The Magic don’t appear to have much interest in building around Lopez and the large salary he’s sure to get in the next few weeks.
The Nets have even begun losing hope of landing Howard and are attempting to appease free agent point guard Deron Williams in other ways. They re-signed forward Gerald Wallace, who was acquired from the Portland Trail Blazers at the trade deadline, and are reportedly discussing a Joe Johnson trade with the Atlanta Hawks.
The Houston Rockets were hot after Howard in the days leading up to last week’s draft and have a plethora of young players to offer the Magic. The Rockets had the 12th, 16th and 18th picks in Thursday’s draft and used those selections to take Connecticut guard Jeremy Lamb, Iowa State forward Royce White and Kentucky forward Terrence Jones.
The Rockets also have the expiring contract of unhappy guard Kevin Martin. Martin is scheduled to make $12,439,675 next season. Point guard Kyle Lowry, who was playing at a borderline All-Star level before his injury last season, is owed under $20 million over the next three season. The Rockets have made their plans to re-sign Goran Dragic known and Lowry is clearly available.
The Rockets agreed to an offer sheet with free agent center Omer Asik worth $25.1 million over three years, so like the Nets, they aren’t going to wait on Howard forever.
Then, as always, there are the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers have seemingly been involved since the beginning of this process and have a giant chip in center Andrew Bynum. The Lakers, who have been engaged in talks to trade Pau Gasol on numerous occasions, probably would not want to include both Gasol and Bynum in a deal, meaning they’d have to find a team to take on one of Orlando’s bad contracts (Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, Glen Davis, Chris Duhon, etc…) should the Magic go that route.
If the Magic can get Bynum in a deal, it’s going to be tough not pull the trigger on the game’s second best big man and a guy who averaged 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game last season. However, Bynum is also in the last year of his contract and can become a free agent next summer. The Magic would, of course, hold Bynum’s bird rights, but they’d probably like to get some sort of guarantee he’d remain with the team beyond next season.
Reports out of Bynum’s camp say he would not be opposed to a trade to the Magic.
If Orlando can’t land a talent like Bynum (and maybe even if they can), they’d be best served acquiring young prospects and picks while unloading as many bad contracts as they can.
(Andrew Melnick is the ESPNFlorida.com Magic and NBA Insider, co-host of the ESPN 1080 Insiders Show and publisher of Howard the Dunk. The Insiders Show can be heard Sunday mornings at 10:00 am EST on AM 1080 in Orlando and on ESPNFlorida.com. You can follow Andrew on twitter here.)