One of the leitmotifs of this condensed and frantic NBA season so far has been whether or not superstar center Dwight Howard will be traded.
The 26-year-old Howard, supposedly unhappy with the direction of the Orlando Magic–the only franchise he’s ever played for–requested a trade at the beginning of the season.
Much like many other superstar athletes, Howard’s desire to leave is less about winning than desire to live in a major market/city, where off-court/field pursuits are more accessible.
Howard’s theory is, if he played in New York, Los Angeles, or Dallas (the three teams he wants to be traded to), he’ll become more famous, garner more endorsements, and have more off-court gigs (like acting in crappy movies or releasing a terrible rap album, etc).
Basketball, more so than just about any other team sport, is a superstar-driven game–a single superior talent can impact a game more so in basketball than, say, football.
And since Howard is, by most accounts, one of the top three basketball players in the world (this writer has him ranked second, behind LeBron James), his, um, wanderlust and commitment issues have left the Orlando Magic franchise in a state of great distress: Do they trade him now and get some value in return or risk seeing him pack his bags and leave town (and get nothing in return) this July when his contract is up?
Howard, ever the diva, has been acting like a young, pretty superficial teenage girl: refusing to commit to Orlando while flirting with other teams one day, stating his loyalty and love of Orlando the next.
But last night, the fickle Howard seemed to have finally made up his mind. After a dominating performance against the Miami Heat–24 points, 25 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks–Howard nonchalantly dropped a bombshell during the post-game press conference.
“I told them I want to finish this season [in Orlando]…”, Howard said. “But I feel they have to roll the dice.”
For anyone who’s followed this saga and understand how the NBA’s salary and free agent system work, the message was clear: Howard doesn’t want to be traded anymore, if that means Orlando has to “roll the dice” and gamble on him leaving in July, so be it.
Howard’s motive behind this latest move is widely known. He doesn’t want a team to trade away too many assets (good players that could be his teammates) for him. Instead, he’ll sign with the team outright in July.
And according to veteran NBA reporters Ken Berg and Adrian Wojnarowski, respectively of CBS Sports and Yahoo, Howard is convinced that, in order to maximize his “brand”, Brooklyn is the place to be.
(Apparently, the NBA thinks so too, as their official website goofed and posted–and soon took down–a form to purchase Nets Howard gear)
The NBA trade deadline is tomorrow at 3pm, meaning the Magic franchise must trade Howard by then to get something in return, or else they’ll be screwed over like Cleveland, by LeBron James, a little under two years ago. Either they trade him or Howard walks, it’s all but a lock that Howard is Brooklyn-bound.
For New York basketball fans and media, this is great news. Just as Linsanity is dying down, we’re going to get the world’s second best basketball player in a few months.