Mejia: Howard playing waiting game he volunteered for

ORLANDO – Dwight Howard is now trying to get himself to Los Angeles, which at the very least, is progress.

He’s increased his short list from one to two.

The Brooklyn dream isn’t necessarily dead, but since the only team he’s wanted to play for was forced to go in another direction, the Lakers and their rich tradition suddenly don’t look so bad, so he’s made it known he’ll re-sign there. Mind you, this is the same team he had no interest in joining because he didn’t want to continue to walk Shaquille O’Neal’s path, but of course, he’s never actually come out and said that.

Consider it plausible deniability, which will become a weapon as his divorce from the only franchise he’s played for nears an ugly completion.

Real GM columnist Jarrod Rudolph, as impeccable a Howard source as there is, went on the Stephen A. Smith Show on Thursday after breaking the news of the center’s change of heart on eventually signing long-term with L.A. He detailed a pattern of disrespect in Orlando that has pushed the marriage past the point of no return, providing insights on a few matters he reports have caused the relationship to deteriorate.

Listen to it here. Depending on what side you’re on, Howard or the Magic come off sounding awfully petty.

My thoughts are that both sides do. False promises, disrespect and a general he-said, she-said await, for those of you who don’t click. It takes two to turn sugar into vinegar, which is why there’s a Dwightmare in the first place.

The situation has gotten emotional, but the impression it appears Howard is under is that him not being traded is personal. The Brooklyn deal didn’t go down — Orlando had the audacity to hold out for more — and now if they don’t send him to his second-most preferred destination, well then clearly, they’re out to embarrass him.

By leaving him floating in the wind, they’re disparaging him. He’s wishy-washy, indecisive. In fact, that’s what Reggie Miller was saying about him on NBA TV on Thursday, echoing the sentiment of many out there who are over the constant updates to his saga.

Make a decision!

That, of course, is unfair.

Howard has made his decision.

He’s done it multiple times. He confirmed he wanted out, as painful as it was. He made it through the “Stay Dwight” campaign, which failed to ultimately sway his opinion. Then, dramatically, on the eve of getting his wish and being traded out of Orlando, he changed his mind, opted in, chalked it up to loyalty and proceeded to watch the bottom fall out.

He’s decided that if it were up to him, he’d never put on a Magic uniform again.

Unfortunately, he lost the right for that to be the end-all, be-all when he opted in on March 15. He’d be with Deron Williams in Brooklyn or Dallas this second if he’d just stuck to his guns and taken advantage of a contract perk that always benefits the athlete.

Whatever he’s saying now about being misled simply doesn’t matter. Howard made a foolish decision and must now sit back as Orlando wields the power that should’ve been his. It’s why he’s really not saying anything pubicly. It’s in his best interest to just let it go, because there’s nothing to be gained from casting stones.

Howard handed Orlando the right to decide where he’ll play the next year of his contract. Whether he’s frustrated that they intend to take full advantage doesn’t matter, either.

General manager Rob Hennigan may have shook Howard’s hand and told him he’d give Brooklyn a serious shot. One thing Hennigan has also made clear in his brief tenure as Magic GM is that there’s nothing that comes before the franchise.

Howard surely couldn’t have expected a guy who just became the league’s youngest GM to give him away for .20 cents on the dollar. He couldn’t have said, “the Magic are asking for too much for me!”

A Brook Lopez-centric deal, for a franchise that didn’t want to commit a massive salary to Lopez, never made sense.

Hennigan trading Howard to Houston on draft night, having just come on board and without hearing anyone’s offers, never made sense.

Dealing for Andrew Bynum, who has expressed he doesn’t want to be in Orlando long-term (unlike what Howard just did for the Lakers) doesn’t make sense.

To make this 3-way trade with Cleveland that yields Anderson Varejao without Tristan Thompson, who sources tell PBN isn’t in play, doesn’t make sense.

The Magic have the luxury of time being on their side . The Houston Rockets have long been the team capable of putting together the best package for a Howard rental. When every outlet that has him a lock for the Lakers now had him landing in Brooklyn, you read a different source-fed take here.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey has been busy dropping “poison pills” on team like banana peels in Mario Kart, so his team has obviously been tied up. After landing Jeremy Lin, Chicago’s Omer Asik is the next target, with a decision likely in Monday. In the midst of the delay, the Magic have gotten a peek at what all four rookie assets Morey accumulated are capable of. Jeremy Lamb, Royce White, Terrence Jones and 2011 pick Donatas Motiejunas all flourished in different ways. Orlando was watching, developing favorites.

A speculative report from the same local television station that claims Butch Carter will be the Magic’s next coach despite never being named a finalist believes Howard is “scared” of ending up in Houston. Maybe that’s accurate, but it doesn’t matter whether he’s huddled under bed sheets or wearing a Cowboy hat and headphones, listening to Mike Jones, Paul Wall and Lil’ Keke.

Orlando will send him to the team willing to rent him without assurances that puts the best deal together. That’s never changed. That’s been reported accurately here for weeks, so blame yourselves for riding the roller-coaster.

Howard’s wishes don’t matter, but this stopped being personal for Orlando once the relationship was deemed irreparable and it had no choice to move on. Then it simply became business and the Magic found themselves in the position of power.

Howard’s frustration is understandable, but just because he throws on a Dodger cap and feels some left coast love doesn’t mean Orlando is going to run to trade him if it doesn’t benefit its cause. To believe that would be misguided and stubborn, traits certain to make an already acrimonious divorce even worse.


Tony Mejia is senior writer of Pro Basketball News. Follow him on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA