Leaving a team to improve your career never sits well with local fans, the ‘betrayed’, and Dwight Howard doesn’t like the fact that Orlando Magic fans (and plenty of others around the NBA) don’t really have too much love for him anymore, after eight seasons with the club. So he takes out an ad, trying to make himself look just a little bit less evil.
To play the game of basketball in the NBA is a blessing and to have had the opportunity to play before the Orlando fans for eight years was truly a privilege and an honor. Words cannot express the love that I have for Orlando. With your support we have done great things in this city from hanging banners to impacting our youth. Although my career with the Magic has come to a close, my love for the city and the people that make it beautiful will never end.
But Howard didn’t have a lot of love for the city and the team once his season was over. Midway through the season, Howard announced his giving up on his opt-out option in his contract, which would have made him a free agent in 2012. He waived his trade demands, seemingly tying his future to the franchise.
Then, the rumors of Howard wanting Stan Van Gundy fired started popping up. Howard went down with a season ending injury, missing the Magic’s short lived playoff experience, losing in the first round to the Indiana Pacers. From a team that reached the NBA finals in 2009, the Magic fell to a Conference Final (2010) and two consecutive first round exits against the Hawks and the Pacers. Howard changed his mind again.
Stan Van Gundy was fired. Otis Smith got fired too. The GM, who built a team around Howard – Four guys who can make open shots from the outside while maximizing Howard’s offensive (still far from perfect) and defensive abilities in the paint. It was good enough for playoff after playoff, they tried adding another proven scorer in what turned to be a washed up Vince Carter while the Rashard Lewis contract didn’t help with the cap-space issue, and the Magic never really a championship-caliber team.
Howard wanted to be traded once again. With one year left on his contract, the Magic didn’t want such a negative presence in their team, but hoped to get a lot for the All-Star center. It ended with Orlando getting Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Moe Harkless, Nikola Vucevic, Josh McRoberts and Christian Eyenga.
There’s also the future and the draft to look at – The Magic also will get a second-round draft pick from Denver next year, a first-round pick from either Denver or New York in 2014, a conditional first-round pick from Philadelphia and a conditional second-round pick from the Lakers in 2015, and a conditional first-round pick from the Lakers in 2017.
Not exactly a fair trade, but the little fish always, or nearly always lose when they trade away their best player, arm wrestling them into submission and to trade him away to the Lakers. The Magic are now probably the weakest team in the NBA along with the Charlotte Bobcats, and they won’t be seeing a playoff for quite some time.
Will anyone forgive Howard for wanting to do what’s best for him? Probably not. He didn’t just leave the Orlando Magic for spare parts – He tore the entire place down with him and with his conflicting behavior, leaving the team with only one option – trading him away at a losing price and begin everything from scrap. Howard may not return as soon as initially thought from his back injury, and it’s not quite certain he’ll re-sign with the Lakers once the season is over.
But we do know that it’ll be a bit easier for him to give up on the free agency adventure at the prospect of being the new building stone that the Lakers build around, and that he won’t be a very popular figure in Orlando, regardless of how many ads he puts out, for years to come.