ORLANDO – Villainizing Dwight Howard has become so easy that everyone is doing it.

From clueless bloggers to columnists and sportscasters wearing out the Pollyanna act, everyone is relying on the kids to turn the Dwightmare another page.

I get it. On one hand, there are kids who woke up on Tuesday morning disappointed because their fallen hero let them down again, leaving them in the hands of a rookie named Andrew Nicholson they’ve barely heard of. Some may have even shed tears.

On the other, we have said fallen hero, who simply wants a fresh start but screwed himself because he’s under contract.

Look at what you did, Dwight, making Lucy sob in sadness. All she wanted was to become a better free-throw shooter.

Killing Howard comes as easily as he’d have it blocking your layup attempt.

By all means, I’m not even going to plead with you not to kill him. Maybe it will make your day easier. If you’re a Magic fan, watching him stumble his way out of town is going to make it all that more enjoyable to boo him upon return or to forget the eight years of smiles and cheers he earned.

At this point, his decisions have obliterated all good will.

He can be seen at Dodger games and at Adidas Nations camp on the west coast, but cries rehab when it comes to flying cross-country to attend his own camp? He’s a monster!

Outrage can hop in a monster truck and splatter Howard, who has somehow crammed himself in a Mini Cooper. But where’s the logic? Is it ever going to ride in and stop the carnage? What if the monster’s doctors are telling him flying carries even the most remote of risks?

If I were Lucy’s pop — and I have two little girls who will be phenomenal shooters — I’d have already warned her there was no way she was seeing Howard this summer.

That’s not the way the world works. Howard avoiding the media at his own camp? Highly doubtful. Getting around the city without dealing with backlash? After a Stay Dwight campaign, a loyalty-based opt-in at the trade deadline and the about-face where both sides felt betrayed? I’d fear for his safety, much less his sanity.

My eldest is nearly four and my little one is set to clock in at six months. I want neither to be naive.  Howard was never coming back.

Howard is never coming back.

The fact new GM Rob Hennigan is being patient in dealing him is the same kind of business decision Howard just made, one he shouldn’t be blamed for. Hired to make sure his approach puts the Magic in a position to best prosper long-term, he’s doing his job in holding on to him. The belief is that a team is going to want Howard in their training camp as badly as Orlando wants him out of its ranks, which is a fair bet since making a hasty move would currently be viewed as settling.

Howard’s camp is collateral damage. It’s the way it has to be. Plausible deniablity is in the Magic’s favor since it’s Howard’s decision not to come. Since he’s not talking, something that has very obviously backfired strategy-wise, he’s left to be the bad guy.

Until he’s back out on the court and wins a championship, LeBron James could tell him it’s a role he’d better get used to.

No one is winning at the moment because Orlando holds the cards and hasn’t been swayed by a proposal. An organization that has made multiple mistakes over the years hasn’t fouled this up since Hennigan took over, because they’re not buckling under pressure to sell off their greatest asset. Even if they have to banish him into the season, Howard can play the rehab card and they can continue to wait.

Because they can. Opt-in says so.

It’s not personal. It sure might seem that way, especially since Howard’s image is in the toilet, but there have to be heads that roll among his own circle as a result of all of this. If there aren’t that’s on him, too.

He can chalk it up to collateral damage. Magic fans who have to use their Howard jerseys as dish rags will have to do the same and get over it.

The feelings of Lakers fans, who feel he should’ve been part of their team yesterday and have taken up the cause of defending him since no one else will, absolutely don’t matter. They should’ve learned that when taking the baton from Nets fans who felt an obligation to him just a few short weeks ago because him and his agent showed them a little “loyalty.”

Memo to the fool who runs the HelloLakers fan site, who believes Howard is being held hostage despite being contractually obligated to stay put because of what he did of his own volition, the Orlando Magic doesn’t care if you’re upset with them. A #FreeDwight campaign will work about as well as #StayDwight did, because grownups are making decisions, not emotional children. It’s also adviseable to not disparage television reporters who actually get paid handsomely for the news they put out there. Regardless of how factual their information is, they’re not asking their parents for money to see a movie.

Speaking of cash, Lucy’s parents and everyone else who dropped $199 for the camp will have the opportunity to get a full refund from ProCamps. Odds are they’ll lose some business, but Nicholson is no one to sneer at. A wonderful young kid that majored in physics – not PhysEd – physics, at St. Bonaventure, will take over. I wouldn’t mind my kids around him. He’s a better free-throw shooter, too.

Obviously, Howard is in a lose-lose situation. The Orlando Magic are in a win-lose, though that win involves being able to  properly rebuild. A happy compromise was never going to come out of this for anybody.

Instead of crying over the inevitable, jumping up and down while pointing and name-calling, why can’t we just call this what it is.

It’s the price of doing business.

Because all the harsh feelings prevail, it seems looking at a divorce this ugly objectively is just too hard.

In that case, use the kids as a crutch. Lucy was crying, after all.

Not that she won’t get over it.

 

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