The First Domino

March 13, 2012 by

This Adidas ad pretty much sums up Dwight Howard's future

By @BMan86

In all sports, the trade deadline seems to materialize out of thin air, and suddenly what was a frozen landscape in whatever league,  starts to change drastically.  The trade deadline puts pressure on GMs to decide what their teams fate is, to predict the unpredictable.  It’s a time where teams either go for the throat, or in their words ‘think about the big picture’.  The NBA trade deadline is of massive importance in the league.  In a game where only five players are on the court at a given time, one significant addition can push a team from contender to champion, one subtraction from bubble to lottery.  As like the NFL, since the labor agreement was set to expire in 2011, many contracts were shaped to end the year of the labor deal, and the year after, to ensure flexibility under the new rules and regulations.  Thus, many players have expiring contracts and are good trade chips to give the weaker teams future draft picks and young talent, while boost other teams into making a run at the Larry O’Brien trophy.  The trade deadline is nothing more than it is; a deadline.  There’s no rule that trades can’t happen before, so why hasn’t one trade been consummated in a year full of players playing for contracts on their expiring deals? Mr. Dwight Howard.

Two years ago with marquee names such as Amare Stoudemire, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, out on the market, nothing dropped until Lebron ‘took his talents to South Beach’.  Now for those with acute memories will recall that in actuality Bosh and Wade signed with Miami days before the Decision.  However, let’s be honest, the trio had all agreed to play together before the charade of shenanigans Lebron created to fulfill his ego.  This year follows the same precedent.  With Dwight Howard’s larger than life personality as well as game, he is a bona fide superstar, a franchise changer.  With basketball’s five man game he can make a doormat of the league a playoff team, a bubble team a contender, a contender a champion.  At 26, just entering his prime, as the inarguable best center in the league, Dwight is holding all the cards. An unrestricted free agent after the 2012 season, Dwight can choose where he wants to go (obviously no team will trade for him without a guaranteed extension).  Howard has played this season nonchalantly to a T, surviving on pure talent.  What’s actually impressive is not his cavalier attitude towards the Magic but that even with his mentality he is averaging 21 points, 15 rebounds, on 57% shooting, oh yea , 2.2 blocks a night as well, putting him 12th, 1st, 3rd, and 4th respectively in those categories in the LEAGUE.

With a one man wrecking crew in Howard, no matter what happens Orlando’s GM Otis Smith will only be able to at best get .75 on the dollar.  One just can’t replace a Dwight Howard.  So what is Smith to do? Orlando’s leverage with the new CBA allows them to pay 30M more than any team to Dwight, but with a superstar such as him, money will not be an issue wherever he goes through the game and sponsorships.  In a league where one man makes such a difference, the player truly has all the power.  It is his decision, and he can decide what’s important to him.   Rings, money, fame, perhaps another career? Dwight’s list of teams has grown in recent months but the reality is there are four destinations that he could wind up at.

The Orlando Magic:

Orlando is doing everything in their power to keep the star center, and with Orlando being his home for the past seven years and the only place outside of Atlanta that he knows, a certain familiarity can no doubt be in existence.  Besides the additional 30M Orlando can offer, majority owner Richard Devos has made it clear to Dwight that he is behind him and wants to give him whatever he needs to stay in the city.  The Magic have a brand new state of the art arena in the Amway Center that was built to keep D12 along with the second highest payroll in the league for a number of years.  However, just like Lebron and the Cavaliers, they have been unsuccessful and have only had one trip to the NBA Finals in Dwight’s tenure with the team.  A change of scenery might be a must for the big fella.

The Dallas Mavericks:

After an incredible run to a championship through the hated Miami Heat, the Dallas Mavericks were set with their team to try to repeat.  Owner Mark Cuban had the money to bring everyone back, and make another run at it with ageing star Dirk Nowitzki.  Yet, two pivotal players in the playoffs, center Tyson Chandler, and starting finals point guard JJ Barea, were let go and only the one year addition of an emotional Lamar Odom was added, why? Because Cuban has bigger plans.  It’s no secret Mark Cuban loves his players.  He is one of the most beloved owners in the league as no team coddles its employees more than the Dallas Mavericks.  Perhaps Cuban believes his handling of his players extorts more effort, perhaps he’s just a loser who wants to be liked, but regardless of the factors at play, players want to go there.  With Dirk rising in age Cuban is aware his team will need another superstar shortly and Dwight Howard is an obvious fit.  If Dwight so chooses he can go to a team where he would become ‘the man’ as he most recently stressed the importance, would receive the max deal, avoid state taxes, and belong to a team with a recent championship.  His game fits the style of the Mavericks with their abundance of three-point shooters; he would again take his place in the paint protecting the rim, getting put backs, and throwing it back out for a wide open Jason Terry three.  It could work.  And with Mark Cuban as owner he would never need to worry about the commitment to winning.  But in Dallas it will be about basketball, and only basketball.  Is that really what he’s looking for? When has Howard’s commitment NOT been called into question.  Cuban has made the Dallas Mavericks a real franchise in the NBA, they have become a perennial contender and have a demanding coach in Rick Carlisle, is that what Dwight desires?

The New Jersey Nets, or Brooklyn Nets:

Although Brooklyn is not Manhattan,  it still would offer many of the same benefits except the novelty of the Knicks and Madison Square Garden.  The Brooklyn Nets would be turning over a new leaf as they would enter the borough grabbing a new fan base and playing in the brand new Barclays Center set to open for next season.  Dwight would still be in New York City, able to brand himself in one of the most global cities in the world and perhaps branch out into his other interests.  It’s no secret Dwight Howard’s interest in movies.  In fact, he wants to not just be the occasional actor, but a movie star, and he believes it can happen.  With international rap sensation and business man Jay-Z as a part owner, this would of course be a more than favorable relationship for Howard and his other incentives.  By being in New York City Dwight would be able to pursue his other interests, while still playing competitive basketball that would also boast a top level talent he’s never played with in Deron Williams.  Dwight and Deron would be a terrifying twosome running the pick and roll deep into the playoffs year in and year out, maybe they’d win, maybe they wouldn’t, both seem to have other things on their mind.  With the Brooklyn Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov comes into play as well.  With more money than God,  Dwight can be assured every possible perk, and that every possible request will be answered and given with open arms.  Nevertheless New York City is very different from Orlando.  Although Dwight has a big time personality how much of that is genuine? Could he handle the New York media watching his every move? Questioning his basketball work ethic?  Would Dwight want to live in a city that actually has a winter, that doesn’t have a beach year round as he’s become so accustomed to?  It’s possible, most of what Dwight wishes does fit with Brooklyn but there still might be somewhere else…if only there was another choice?

The Los Angeles Lakers:

It wouldn’t be the first time Superman left Orlando for the Pacific, and it won’t be the last.  Although Dwight has repeatedly tried to separate himself from Shaquille O’Neal the similarities are obvious and one can’t help but draw the parallels.  Both dominated the center position, both had more talent than they cared to max out, and both have big personalities that they believe can stretch into much more than just basketball.   Although not the most successful, Shaq starred and produced Steel, Kazaam, as well as created and collaborated on multiple rap songs.  He also played the popular ‘Neon’ in Blue Chips with his teammate Penny Hardaway.  Much of his career outside of basketball was shepherded by being in LA, the proximity allowing Shaq to meet people he never would have had a chance to in the Orlando bubble.  The same still holds true today.  Besides the star power one can build by being in LA, it also happens to house one of the two most famous franchises in the league.  The Lakers have had some of the most historic players to ever play the game, and just to be a part of the purple and gold many find to be a privilege.  With LA also comes the weather, the beach, the women, and Kobe Bryant.  Kobe is hands down the most respected player in the league today by his peers, and for good reason.  At age 33 he is once again leading the league in points per game and is the leader in championships among active players (only Tim Duncan is close with 4).  During the 2008 Olympic finals game against Spain, in a close game with 5 minutes remaining, Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, and Chris Paul, the NBAs most famous faces, all did their best to set screens for Kobe and get him the ball.  He is no question ‘the man’, and although Dwight has stated that roll needs to be him, it is also assumed that Kobe will eventually stop playing at a ridiculous level (we think, right?) and need to defer to another superstar who he can still win rings with as he climbs in age.  The city of LA fits Dwight’s every need and the Lakers like every other franchise wants him.  Although it’s not fair that time and time again the impactful players of the sport flock to the cities with history, weather, and women, what would you do as a single millionaire in your mid twenties? We’d all take our talents to ‘some beach’.