Dwight Howard can’t win

What do you want Dwight Howard to do? This isn’t a rhetorical question. I’m legitimately interested in what the intelligent, charming and attractive NBA fans who read this blog think is Dwight’s best course of action that would keep him in your good books.

These days, it seems like Dwight Howard can’t do anything right in the eyes of most people. When he didn’t speak up in seasons past when the Magic were slumping, he didn’t care about winning. When Dwight lit into his teammates after Friday night’s 26-point loss to the Hornets, he was being self-centered and throwing his teammates under the bus.

If we’re going to take Dwight at his word that he wants to win a championship — and some people won’t even do that — then it’s perfectly understandable that he’s ready to play somewhere else after seven seasons in Orlando. If he finishes this season in a Magic uniform, that will make it eight full seasons in Orlando. How many chances is he supposed to give team management to build a championship-level team around him?

The Magic did make one Finals appearance during the Dwight Howard era, but they weren’t really close to winning a title as the Lakers dispatched them in five games in 2009. You certainly can’t blame Dwight for not pulling his weight in those playoffs — he averaged 20.3 points, 15.3 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and made 60 percent of his field goal attempts. But when the second-best player on your team is Rashard Lewis, you can only go so far before superior talent wins out.

Lewis’ absurd $118 million contract was just the first in a litany of horrible mistakes that Magic GM Otis Smith has made. Poor drafting and dumb trades have been the norm in Orlando over the past few years. Most incredibly, Smith thought it would be a good idea to trade the second-worst contract (Lewis) in the NBA for the league’s worst contract (Gilbert Arenas). After that move predictably backfired, any reasonable person would conclude that Smith is incompetent at his job.

But how do you fire a GM when the team wins over 50 games for four straight seasons, like the Magic have done? Well, Smith wasn’t the GM when they drafted Howard so he doesn’t deserve credit for most of those wins. He had a First Team All-NBA center on his team for each of the past four seasons and he failed miserably at building around him. Now that it turns out that Ricky Rubio is the real deal, Smith has secured his place as the NBA’s worst General Manager.

So if you blame Dwight Howard for wanting out after you consider who is running the team, then you’re either a Magic fan or completely unreasonable. But if you don’t have a problem with him wanting to leave, there’s a good chance you have a problem with how he’s going about it. Maybe you don’t think he should give the Magic a list of teams he’s willing to sign with after this season. Well, why not? He could say nothing and just leave the Magic for nothing after the season — you know, the LeBron/Bosh tactic — and how would that be better for the Magic?

As this saga plays out, I’ve read a lot of comments from disgruntled NBA fans expressing some variation of “I thought the lockout was supposed to fix this problem.” Fix it how, exactly? By not letting players choose where they get to play? Look, if a player is under contract, then I think he should suck it up and play wherever he gets traded, whether he likes it or not. And if that player wants to work the angles in the last year of his contract and give management a list of teams he’d be willing to re-sign with in the event of a trade, more power to him. Hey, if the Magic don’t want to trade Dwight Howard to the Lakers or the Celtics or whoever, nobody’s forcing them to. If they’d rather lose him for nothing than help create another “superteam”, they can knock themselves out.

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t expect team management to be that hard-headed, but this is Otis Smith we’re talking about here. A smart GM would observe how well the Nuggets came out of the Carmelo Anthony deal — they’re 32-12 since the trade — and realize that you can probably find another GM to overpay for a superstar like Howard. This season’s trade deadline is on March 15, so Smith has a month-and-half to arrange that kind of deal.

In the meantime, Dwight Howard continues to take heat as the latest “entitled superstar” who dares to try to control his own destiny, and I just don’t get it. Don’t you think seven seasons is a long enough period to give a franchise the opportunity to prove that they’re on the right path to contending for a title? Whatever Dwight’s real motivations are for wanting to leave, it’s not his fault things didn’t work out in Orlando. They’re clearly not going to win a title with him anytime soon, so it’s in the best interest of both parties to move on.

Comments (24)

  1. Good posting. You noted that the Nuggets are doing well after trading Carmelo. At the moment, it also looks like the Jazz have gotten the better end of the D Will trade. It’s too evaluate what New Orleans got from the CP3 deal, because Gordon has been hurt. Regardless, there’s enough history to show that teams with a superstar in the last year of his contract to give the star a deadline for signing an extension, and then get what it can for him if he won’t sign it. Any other approach is too risky.

  2. weren’t really close to winning the title? looks like someone was too busy watching Brad Miller youtube videos

    • Yeah! Three games away is REALLY close.

      • if you look at the scores for those three games, the magic were very very close to winning. hell, if ariza had made that layup in game 3 we would of been up 2-1 on the lakes. CJ is right and you’re wrong.

  3. For starters, Otis has made horrible decisions.
    Secondly, their one finals appearance was against a great lakers team, Jameer was injured, and they only just lost a couple of close games which meant it didnt go to 7. The team they have around Dwight is made to win…in the regular season. The Lewis-Turk-Howard combo was a very good combination, and why they blew up that team Im not sure.

    On the whole though, I dont blame Howard for wanting to leave. Magic cant compete for a championship with their current team. Their best option, Turkoglu, couldnt start on a terrible Suns team. Nelson has been horrible. JRich is a role player now. The best iso option is Von Wafer.

    Otis might be dumb, but the ownership are not. They wont let him walk like Shaq, he gets traded after the All-star break before the deadline.

  4. You’re right, you can’t blame Dwight for wanting to leave Orlando because of the moves Smith has made, and the ones he hasn’t made.

    The biggest mistake IMO, wasn’t the Lewis contract and trade, or the Richardson contract, or the Bass for Davis swap, it was probably getting rid of Gortat. For a guy like Howard, who is almost always going to be in foul trouble, it’s essential that you have a nice backup center behind him. Ever since getting rid of Gortat, the Magic have been playing without a backup center and have had to use undersized guys like Anderson and Davis/Bass as centers.

    But at the same time, I don’t think that Howard should be able to just come out and say “these are the teams I want to sign with” before he even becomes a free agent. It’s probably a wake up call and his threat to management to add some pieces or else. But mid-season, while he’s still under contract is a little offensive to Orlando fans.

    It’s obvious that ever since the whole Miami Heat signings, everyone wants to team up with their friends to win. But at the same time, when you look at a team like New York, it doesn’t always gaurantee success. Hopefully in the future there will more more teams like OKC who do it the right way, and build through the draft.

  5. As a diehard magic fan, I completely agree with you Scott. Great post. I want Dwight to stay more than anything. I dont blame him for anything, he IS the Magic. Everything revolves around him and what I want is Orlando to do something and get Deron Williams to get him to stay.

  6. As a Magic fan in Orlando, I actually hope that we don’t trade him until the season ends. Because honestly, I assume that whatever deal we make will be one that makes our team a worse one. I have always been a D12 fan, but, he doesn’t have a real killer instinct on the court and in our locker room, aside from Jameer (who has unfortunately fallen off like crazy this season) and Quentin Richardson’s air guitar from the sidelines, we don’t have a lot of guys who have ever stepped into a leadership role on a team in their careers. So when Dwight says he wants another PG to play with before the season starts, it has honestly had a detrimental effect on our team’s chemistry, and you can see that on the court.

    Unfortunately, we don’t have many options on our roster for trade value to build around anything if we lose Dwight. Our only hope is that maybe if we trade him we can unload a bad contract or two with it.

    I don’t think our ownership trades him before the all-star game though.

    Also, we have a great coach, but in the NBA, the coach is the first to go when things go bad, so hopefully SVG can make it through this year and get a chance to rebuild with the team.

  7. My thoughts exactly. I keep reading that the Magic feel that maybe Dwight’ll stay. It’s mind-numbing how obtuse Smith is being about the reality that Howard’s gone, and they’d be better off making that sooner rather than later.

  8. As someone who grew up in Orlando with the Magic as our only pro sports team, I hope D12 gets traded. Best scenario: trade with NJ for every 1st round pick you can get (from NJ or include other teams). Just load up on picks and drop Hedo on them too. Do it at the trade deadline and we’ll play without a center, either fall out of the playoffs or be a really low seed and lose first round. Whatever…but we can restart very quick.

    The problem with Dwight is this: he’s not a leader. He is a locker room clown. It hasn’t been fair to him having everyone want him to be the leader he will never be because that is not him. He will never win a championship anywhere he goes because he doesn’t have that alpha male fire inside him. I was there when Kobe lifted the Larry O’Brien trophy in Orlando. I saw Howard and Jameer watch the ceremony in the tunnel. I thought “hell, they are watching this, feeling the pain, and come out next year with a fire to win 82 games and sweep everyone in the playoffs.” But they didn’t. Dwight complained the team wasn’t good enough around him, then dummy Smith made trades. Dwight has never taken the team on his shoulders other than on the stat sheet.

    Don’t let the numbers fool you as the Hawks shut him down last playoffs, he plays against way inferior competition at the 5 in the east. And he’s a offensive liability down the stretch of games for poor free throw shooting. He may be the most dominant center in the league right now, but he doesn’t crack the top 5 in all time centers. Plus, watching almost every Magic game, his rebound numbers go up because 1.) name another rebounder on the team? and 2.) his teammates let him get every rebound.

    TLDR; Trade to Dwight to the Nets for a lot of picks, rebuild since D12 isn’t a leader, stats are over blown, and never will win a title or be considered a top 5 center (maybe 10) of all time.

    • Come on D Howard isnt a leader?? Maybe not verbally Im not sure as Im not in the locker room. But this guy controls the boards and the defensive end. You magic fan that curse his name will feel it soon, when the team drops to very bottom depths of the league!!

  9. Its painfully obvious Orlando are not trying to win a title. They have an average team that has a better record than they should right now, mainly thanks to Howard’s efforts. If he’s smart he’ll leave, not for the money, but for the chance of being a big part in a better team. If he doesn’t leave, is he satsified with becoming the new age Patrick Ewing? Just another dominant big man who leaves without a title. Last time I looked Shaq had 4 rings after leaving Orlando.

    (And a side note: How do you blow a 27 point lead AND lose by double digits?)

  10. I have no problem with him wanting to leave. I just hate this whole demanding a trade thing. There is a big difference between privately telling the team’s management that you won’t be signing with them after the season and telling the media that you want to be traded. I guess I just think that if you sign your name on that dotted line, you should keep to your word. In my opinion there really wasn’t anything wrong with the way Bosh and LeBron did it (other than the hour long TV show). What they did was a classic free agent signing. What Carmelo did and what Dwight is doing brings all this drama to a team that really doesn’t need it. This mess is the real problem when people talk about players controlling where they go.

    • I think you’re the type of fan that Scott is directing this to because there really is no winning for Dwight. First off, I think privately telling the team he wanted to be traded was exactly what he did until unnamed sources let the story leak. After that leaked, everybody would have thought he was a two-faced liar if he just denied, so in my mind he just said “fuk it, it’s already out there and these are the teams i want to go to”. Also by not signing that contract extension was really a secret and shock what was eventually going to happen?

      By the way he did sign on the dotted line and he IS keeping his word, he’s playing isn’t he??

      Lastly I do agree with you on your point about lebron and bosh, I have no problem with players leaving through free agency. But If I had to choose I would want my superstar to demand a trade and get something back for him than for him to string the team along on false hope and then leave the team without anything. Yes it does create drama for the team but I blame the front office just as much. Would the nuggets have suffered as much if they had just pulled the trigger right away? The way the Hornets handled the Chris Paul situation is the best way to handle it IMHO (right away like a band-aid)

  11. Great article.
    My thoughts on the issue, I really don’t like how Dwight Howard is going about this entire situation. One minute he’s asking for a trade, the next, he is saying he might not leave and would like to see were the team is going.
    He craves attention, and it is very annoying.
    The entire Dwight-Saga is annoying.

  12. let him walk.. on a team with a real go-to-scorer he will be an overpaid garbageman, lets see how he likes that

  13. There are certain ways to properly deal with a scenario such as this. Demanding a trade, rescinding said trade comment with the initial early success and demanding a trade only to a handful of teams once again during a brief losing streak isn’t one of them.

    Yes Dwight, your GM isn’t that bright and you could probably sell him beach-front property in Nevada and a Pontiac Aztec to go with it. And we understand that your team’s chances of winning a title took several torpedoes with the Celtics debacles and the latest losses to New Orleans and Indiana. I’d want a trade too if I had to play with Hedo Turkoglu night in and night out.

    That being said, you don’t insult the fans that pay an absurd amount of money to watch you fill out a stat sheet by flip-flopping on your decisions throughout the season to the press. Actions of that nature are discussed in the smoke-filled rooms where members of the sporting press and fans are not granted access to. The price for those actions are the justified jeers of the sports fan. The sports fan that’s tired of seeing players conduct themselves with an arrogance of Ali’s level with no title nor substantial victory. You don’t see Steve Nash pulling shenanigans like this. Nor did you see Malone, Stockton nor Reggie Miller take a page out of this playbook either that you saw with LeBron and flashes of it here with Dwight.

    But my all means, continue your game and your actions. But don’t be surprised when the fans turn on you and you become the newest vilified man in Florida. For there is nothing more ruthless than scores of scorned fans. Ask Clay Bennett on why he never sits foot in the Northwest after Sonicsgate.

  14. I want him to stop wearing Ed Hardy shirts.

  15. Dwight IMO has handled this free agency-to-be business better then LBJ, Carmelo etc….

    He is playing damn hard and continuing to prove that he isn’t the problem. I would love to see him contend. I would love to see Orlando make the best of this and rebuild to make a new dynamic young team with SVG at the helm.

  16. What Do fans want from D Howard??? Want him to lie and say he is happy watching Chicago, Miami, Philly get better. While he is playing with a point guard who doesnt really pass (Jameer) or a SF Hedo aka Hedont!! or washed up J Richardson… All Howard has is a bunch of Jump shooters who bank on D Howard cleaning up there splattered missed shots!!! He cant say anything right!!.. I Hope Orlando gets nothing for him then see how it feels. It will haunt your franchise for years to come!!!!

    With out Howard this team is certainly a lottery team!!

    • I can’t speak for everyone, but the issue is not him asking for a trade or not (i think he rescinded the demand) Its all the flip flopping between trade, no trade, we’ll see, maybe, and perhaps’ that are so frustrating.
      In addition to all that, if he wants to be traded, allow the Magic to get the best package available! Don’t handcuff them with a handful of teams

  17. I thought Howard came to Magic as a rookie. Magic and P. Ewing made him the player he is, which in my opinion is a lot like Shaq.. No consistent shot . Face it. The hook shot isn’t that great. He still does’t hit free throws at a fair level.His new body came from the Magic gym. People are talking like he was a big star from the moment he came here. No way. Otis Smith can’t be blamed for the trade deals. They are all a gamble and some gambles are just that, a gamble. Magic , get rid of howard and get an all around player, not a one dimentional one.

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