Although their marketing department would never approve it, the slogan that most aptly describes the current state of the Association is “The NBA, Where The Lunatics DO Run The Asylum.” Once again, a franchise from the Association is in a no-win situation, as Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard told “Yahoo Sports,” that he would only sign a contract extension with one team in the NBA. Although, the premier center of his era, did not name the club he was referring to, it is common knowledge that the Brooklyn Nets is the team he wants to be with.
Howard also denied saying that the Magic “blackmailed” him into agreeing to play the upcoming season on his current contract, before the Association’s trade deadline went into effect on March 15. However, some could interpret his present stance as a form of blackmail or extortion directed at Orlando; as he is likely driving down his value, if the Magic agree to trade him.
Although the “Orlando Sentinel” reported that the club’s new General Manager Rob Hennigan, told reporters on Monday that he has already spoken with several teams who have interest in his All-Star center, there has yet to be an offer that has prompted Hennigan to pull the trigger. The Houston Rockets and the Golden State Warriors, are two clubs mentioned, as willing to rent Howard for the upcoming campaign without a contract extension, but they might not offer enough to make the trade worthwhile for Orlando.
Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Nets can just sit back and wait, knowing that in a worst case scenario they might have to wait another season to bring Howard on board. If they do try to negotiate a deal to acquire the big man from the Magic, they certainly don’t have to offer as strong a package as they would if they were competing for Howard’s services. With the team on the verge of resigning Gerald Wallace, as well as finalizing a trade with the Atlanta Hawks to pick up Joe Johnson on Monday; they have already made enough moves to most likely convince Deron Williams to re-sign with the club. They can just wait until the 2013-2014 campaign to acquire the final piece, signing Howard as a Free Agent without giving up a thing.
Orlando does have one weapon at their disposal; although many NBA observers would roll their eyes when originally presented with the concept. The move for the Magic would certainly not be cost-effective in the short-term for the franchise, however it has the potential to increase their bargaining power. The team could take a stand, set a precedent and draw a line in the sand, if they tell Howard to just stay home for the season. He would be paid in full, however he could have no contact with the team or its players, or the use of the club’s facilities. Further more, they could tell Howard that his agent no longer had permission to have contact with other teams until the end of next season.
Of course the NBA Players Association, would immediately file a grievance, however I don’t think they could win the case in arbitration. Orlando could simply state that Howard is a negative influence on the young players in the locker room, as he has no wish to be with the club any longer. How could he possibly care about a new coach and a new system, as well as the team’s long-term goals, when he has already made it clear he will not be with the team next season? That would be a pretty tough case for the NBAPA to win, in my opinion.
The obvious downside of my proposal, is that the Magic would be paying Howard to be on a year-long vacation, something that would sit very well with some players in the Association. I don’t believe that would be the case with Howard, as he is far too competitive and it would also affect his long-term legacy in the Association, giving up a year on the court in his prime while being perfectly healthy. I don’t believe that it will sit well with the All-Star center, and that within a couple of months into the season, he has his agent on the phone trying to work out a deal.
We have seen this going on in the Association time and again, in the last two-years, as Deron Williams and Carmelo Anthony forced trades in the 2010-2011 campaign and Chris Paul doing the same thing before this past season started. Orlando could help put an end to players holding teams hostage, if they are willing to bite the bullet and stay strong.