After years of being among the elite teams in the Association, the Orlando Magic find themselves on a very slippery slope; that could affect the short-term as well as the long-range fortunes of the club. The Magic have played the season thus far knowing that All-Star center Dwight Howard will become a Free Agent at the conclusion of the current campaign. Howard and his agent have asked for the big man to be traded and his agent has received permission to speak with the Dallas Mavericks, the Los Angeles Lakers and the New Jersey Nets, to see if he can persuade one of the franchises to put together a package to entice Orlando to make a deal.
Earlier this season Howard told members of the media that he had not ruled out signing a new pact with his current team, if it looks like they were heading in the right direction. The 26-year-old big man has seen little evidence of that over the last week; as his squad has dropped five of their last six games and are currently in the midst of a four game skid after losing to the Sixers by a score of 74-69 on Monday night. Orlando’s offense has sputtered and stalled throughout the last week; they lost their first of two games to the Boston Celtics scoring 56 points, the lowest point total in the team’s history. Monday night against Philadelphia they could muster just nine points in the entire third quarter.
Howard has not been taking the losses very well as he has ripped his teammates twice in the past few days. He told reporters that during Orlando’s loss to the New Orleans Hornets, he was so disgusted that he told the other players during the break at halftime that if they did not want to play they should stay in the locker room. Those words do not sound like they came from a man who is optimistic that the club is heading forwards instead of slipping down that slope.
Speculation about trading D-Howard has been non-stop over the last few days; with reports that the big man has broadened his wish list to include the Chicago Bulls as well as the Los Angeles Clippers. One can easily picture Orlando General Manager Otis Smith right about now having his cellphone affixed to his ear almost every waking moment, in search of the best deal the Magic can get for the best center of his generation in the Association. The “Orlando Sentinel” is reporting however that Smith says that the opposite is true; in fact he does not foresee the team making any deals in the imminent future.
Smith talked with members of the media before Monday night’s loss and said “If a string of losses causes you to change your plans, then I’m in the wrong job. I think you look at your team as a whole and understand that we have to fight through whatever we have to fight through and you continue to evaluate everything top to bottom. That’s what you do. When it’s time to make a change, you make a change.”
How much of that statement consists of “Spin Control” and what percentage reflects his true feelings. Smith has been around quite a while and knows how to deal with the media. There was no way that the Magic General Manager was going to reveal his hand to reporters even if a deal was just about to be consummated. Also by not showing panic Smith does not decrease the value of his All-Star big man as he would if teams believed he was ready to make a panic induced move.
It is highly doubtful that the Magic will allow Howard to just walk away at the end of the campaign; so it stands to reason if the team does not turn things around before the trade deadline on March 15, they will work out a trade. Smith saw what happened to the Cleveland Cavaliers after they lost their franchise player and most likely does not want to go through that same scenario with his own team.