The NBA is a superstar’s league. It always has been, and it likely always will be. However, the recent trend is that these superstars are looking to team up together, and create “Superteams,” while also simultaneously causing turmoil on their original, smaller market teams. The Cleveland Cavaliers, Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets, New Orleans Hornets, and Toronto Raptors have already lost their superstars to these so-called “Superteams”, and the next team on this list appears to be the Orlando Magic.
In December, before the season began, Dwight Howard informed the Orlando Magic that he did not intend to resign with the team after the season, and that he intended to opt out of his contract and pursue free agency. The Magic granted Dan Fegan, Howard’s agent, permission to negotiate trades with the Dallas Mavericks, New Jersey Nets, and Los Angeles Lakers.
Recently, Howard has not retracted his trade demands, and there have been rumors that he would be amenable to playing with teams like the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Clippers, and Boston Celtics. However, it has been reported by multiple news outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel from the mouth of Magic GM Otis Smith himself, that Howard’s list of destinations has not changed, and that it is still limited to the Nets, Mavs, and Lakers.
[quote]Magic General Manager Otis Smith told the Orlando Sentinel that Howard’s camp has not indicated to the Magic that the superstar center has expanded his list of preferred trade destinations beyond his original three teams: the New Jersey Nets, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Dallas Mavericks.[/quote]
However, there is a new twist in this drama: Apparently, Howard has cooled on the idea of being traded to the Lakers.
[quote]The Lakers have already been informed that Howard won’t sign a long-term deal in Los Angeles, according to sources close to the situation. If the Lakers were to trade for Howard, he would opt out and test free agency. Howard’s interest in Los Angeles has always been overstated, mainly because he doesn’t want to follow in Shaquille O’Neal’s footsteps and he doesn’t want to go through another rebuilding process anytime soon. With Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol in their thirties, Howard would be reaching his prime just as his All-Star teammates were declining.[/quote]
Additionally, Howard does not seem to enjoy the thought of playing with Lakers All-Star Shooting Guard Kobe Bryant.
[quote]Howard envisioned going to the Lakers and forming a devastating one-two punch with Bryant. But Bryant had other plans for how Howard would be incorporated into the Lakers.
Bryant told Howard that he wanted him to come to Los Angeles and help him win two more championships, but not as an understudy. He wanted Howard to be the team’s third option behind himself and Pau Gasol, according to a source. Bryant tried to sell Howard on being his “Tyson Chandler” and made it clear that Los Angeles would be his, but only once Bryant decided he was done playing.[/quote]
So, from all the information we have obtained, Dwight Howard has the following criteria for his next destination:
1) Good teammates: Howard does want to win at least one championship, and obviously he can do that more easily with a better team around him. Howard has put an even higher priority on playing with a good point guard, as he has indicated that he would enjoy playing with guys such as Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and Rajon Rondo.
2) Big Market: Howard wants to be a global star, which is why he is looking at markets such as LA and New York. He could expand his brand and have more business opportunities in a bigger market.
3) Face of the Franchise: As shown by the recent rumors regarding Bryant, Howard wants to be the face of his new franchise. With the Lakers, that would be impossible, and that is part of the reason he has been turned off of the Lakers.
4) Legacy: Howard does not want to follow in past greats’ footsteps. He is not interested in being the second Shaquille O’Neal. He wants to be the first Dwight Howard, and this cannot be done in LA, as Shaq has already blazed that trail.
Now, out of the three teams that Dwight wants to go to, there is only one team that can offer all these things to Dwight Howard: The New Jersey Nets.
Currently known as the bottom feeders of the NBA, the Nets are firmly planted in the driver’s seat of the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. Nets officials remain confident that the team will come away with Howard, and writers such as Larry Coon, Chris Broussard, Alex Kennedy, Ric Bucher, John Hollinger, and Jarrod Rudolph all agree.
The Nets are the perfect situation for Howard. They offer an all-star point guard in Deron Williams, whose game conveniently compliments Howard’s almost perfectly, a big market in Brooklyn, to which they are moving next season, the opportunity to be the undisputed face of the franchise, and the opportunity to create his own unique legacy.
On top of all that, the Nets have trade assets to help the Magic in the wake of Dwight’s departure. Dwight likes the Magic organization and would not want to leave them in the lurch like LeBron did to the Cavs. I expect the Magic to receive a package of Mehmet Okur, Marshon Brooks, Jordan Farmar, Johan Petro, Brook Lopez, and three or four first round picks in compensation for Howard and Hedo Turkoglu’s awful contract. This would also enable Howard to make more money next season when he resigns with the Nets, because under the new CBA players can make more money when resigning with their own team.
The Mavs are getting old. They are not the same team they were last year. Dirk Nowitzki has gone downhill this season. Furthermore, they do not have trade assets to entice Orlando, as it is becoming clear that Otis Smith will be forced to deal the Superstar sometime in early March.
The Lakers, as outlined previously, pose a number of problems for Howard.
That leaves only the Nets on Howard’s list.
Think of it: Dwight Howard could go down as one of two things:
1) The man who went to the Lakers and tagged along with Kobe, just as Shaq had done previously. He would also be following in the footsteps of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain. Dwight can never live up to the standards those guys set.
2) The man who went to the Nets, brought them into Brooklyn, and led a downtrodden franchise to prominence.
It is looking more and more like Howard is going to choose Option #2. I fully expect Dwight Howard to soar into Brooklyn next season to save the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets.