Limbo has a hellish connotation, so maybe it’s appropriate that the Dwightmare has graduated to it’s current state.
Dwight Howard wants out, has wanted out and will never want back in. Nevermind that he opted in. That only matters in the most important way possible. He’s got no control, so what he wants doesn’t matter.
What he doesn’t want matters a ton.
At this point, an Orlando Magic organization that isn’t commenting on Wednesday’s meeting in L.A. walked away even more frustrated than the six-time All-Star center who can’t wrap his mind around why he hasn’t been traded yet. Maybe, had he been more open-minded, he could’ve strengthened the Magic’s stance in negotiations with the Houston and Los Angeles, the latter being the one place outside of Brooklyn that he’d like to call home the next few years.
One thing I can understand is that Howard doesn’t want to speak out of each side of his mouth anymore. Much of Orlando’s fan base has turned on him, so the need for him to appease no longer exists. He wants no part of relenting even an inch on his desire to be elsewhere, which really hurts Orlando’s ability to deal him for a return the franchise deems fair. I can respect he doesn’t want to tug at heart strings or play games, because he wore that rollercoaster out this past season.
Clearly, Orlando has lost the leverage game, even though it will continue to threaten to hold him until the trade deadline. At the same time, new GM Rob Hennigan has learned from some of the best, so he won’t be bullied and has to trust his gut with time on his side. CEO Alex Martins has expressed the desire not to have another year like the one the Magic just went through, but like Howard, didn’t help his team’s cause by having said that.
Houston went ahead and signed 2012 first-round picks Royce White and Terrence Jones, starting a 30-day clock before they can be moved in any deal. No. 12 pick Jeremy Lamb’s deal is imminent. 2011 pick Donatas Motiejunas is available on Aug. 5. At this point, the Rockets are settling in for lengthy negotiations if they opt to try and rent Howard or L.A.’s Andrew Bynum with the intent to keep one of them long-term.
Meanwhile, Howard, under contract with Orlando but still trying to get his way, is sabotaging a potential move to Houston. Despite the fact that the Rockets can get him and move him down the road in a worst-case scenario, he wants no part of them playing faciliator, which is really misguided.
The Rockets have the best package of assets that the Magic feel comfortable moving forward with, but since Howard has made it known he could always bolt to Dallas if Houston attempts to use his Bird Rights as a way to keep him, there’s little incentive for the Rockets to give Orlando anything close to what it wants.
Los Angeles can’t get Howard on its own because an Andrew Bynum package potentially puts the Magic in the same position they were in this afternoon. Orlando doesn’t want to sell its vision to any 7-footer that’s not under contract, but also wants no part of Brook Lopez or Kris Humphries, which means the Nets are out, even if Jan. 15 was Aug. 15 or March 15. Orlando and Brooklyn traded medical reports on their centers and talked in circles, but those talks yielded nothing that’s expected to change in the future.
As a result, the Lakers and Magic both need the Rockets, with Howard doing any potential three-way no favors at the moment. At least Bynum has said he’s amenable to calling Houston home.
Meanwhile, the Magic lose a lot if Howard comes to training camp. For starters, it would be a distraction and a horrible influence on those that want to be there, since the environment that Hennigan and coach-to-be Jacque Vaughn want to instill is ingrained in teamwork and no one being greater than the whole. Doesn’t exactly fit with Howard moping about being held hostage by the opt-in he signed.
They can pay him to stay away, but then everyone loses, basketball included. Howard does have a joy for the game, never being one to sit out unless he absolutely has to.
If he returns and plays for the Magic, they won’t be the travesty of a team necessary to compete for a top-five pick in a 2013 draft that has multiple gems. From that standpoint, Orlando can’t risk not getting a shot at Nerlens Noel or Shabazz Muhammad because they opt to make a guy unlikely to be around come March go through the motions for a couple of months.
Orlando won’t lose him for nothing, so they’re going to trade him. That’s certain. Howard won’t re-sign. Houston is taking a harder stance, because it can and should. The Lakers are playing the waiting game, because there’s no other option for them. Bynum is chilling. Has been. Will continue to. Chill, that is.
Welcome to limbo. As expected, it’s hellish and ugly.
Tony Mejia is senior writer of Pro Basketball News. Follow him on Twitter @TonyMejiaNBA