Four years can be a lifetime in the NBA; as the Orlando Magic can attest to after seeing their fortunes radically altered since they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2009 NBA Finals. The club that represented the Eastern Conference in the big dance that season is now a team in transition; looking to fill the voids at the General Manager and head coach slots. Former G.M.Otis Smith decided the time was right for him to leave the organization while the Magic fired former coach Stan Van Gundy earlier this month.
The logical assumption by many observers of the Association was that the dismissal of Van Gundy would lead to All-Star center Dwight Howard signing a long-term contract extension with Orlando this summer. For those of us who have covered the NBA for a long enough period; we realize that logic is not always the defining force in making decisions in the NBA and this appears to be one of those situations.
Although the “Orlando Sentinel” reported earlier this week that sources close to the situation denied published reports that the Magic had already decided to trade the best center of his era, the team may eventually decide to trade their franchise player. If the team and the big man can not reach an agreement, it would confirm the theory that Van Gundy actually slit his own throat with Team CEO Alex Martins and Owner Rich DeVos when he told the media that Howard wanted him out at the end of the season.
Although there are many teams that would love to pursue a trade to acquire the All-Star center; there are very few that could offer Orlando a package that would entice them to make a deal. The Mavericks most certainly would want to work out a deal with the Magic; however they have little to offer.
Amar’e Stoudemire is certainly not the answer for the Magic and Carmelo Anthony’s value has most likely dropped since the Knicks traded for him in February of 2011. Outside of Blake Griffin or Chris Paul, the Clippers would be hard pressed to put together a tempting enough package to get Howard. The Houston Rockets could offer a bunch of solid players starting with Kevin Martin, but they are not going to return Orlando to their former status.
That leaves two viable teams in the running to complete a deal with Orlando; the Los Angeles Lakers who would have to part with Andrew Bynum, or the Brooklyn Nets who would send center Brook Lopez as the centerpiece of their package to the Magic. Both big men have talent but have their downsides. Bynum had a career season for Los Angeles in this past campaign as he stayed healthy and was the starting center for the West in the All-Star game; however he has a history of getting hurt and still shows a lack of maturity all too often.
Lopez was on his way to becoming one of the best young men in the pivot when he was injured this past season. The former Stanford player broke a bone in his right foot in a pre-season contest against the New York Knicks, which needed surgery to be repaired. He took the court for the first time in a game on February 19 against the Milwaukee Bucks. After having some strong performances; scoring 38 points as the Nets topped the Dallas Mavericks and knocking down 28 points in a loss to the Boston Celtics.
He twisted his right ankle early in a game against the Charlotte Bobcats. That would be the last time Lopez hit the hardwood in a game for the season. He will become a restricted Free Agent this summer with the Nets being to able match any offer sheet he is given by another team. However questions will remain until he takes the court next season; whether he still has the athleticism he possessed before being injured.
It’s understandable that Orlando does not want to go into another season worrying whether they can keep Howard long-term; however it may serve them better to wait until the regular season starts if Howard’s status is still undecided.