The truest mission statement for the Magic is not about winning a title this season.
It's about keeping Dwight Howard in town.
To update, as of Thursday, nothing has changed on the Howard trade front, according to Magic brass.
He still wants to be dealt (and after watching his team get hammered by the Bulls, he might have taken a parachute with him aboard the team charter for the West Coast trip).
And something else hasn't changed: Dwight still holds all the cards.
His ultimate leverage: telling whatever team the Magic have on the phone that he will or will not sign a contract extension with it.
As we know, Howard's choice of teams are the New Jersey Nets, Dallas Mavericks and L.A. Lakers. The Magic have held off in hopes of persuading him to stay, waiting to see if things change with the teams in the trade scenarios, which could come with complications:
The Nets: New Jersey is said to be Howard's first pick because they are moving to New York (Brooklyn) next season. The Nets also have all-star point guard Deron Williams….for now. There are indications that Williams is restless and uninspired playing on a dreadful club that lost center Brook Lopez (broken foot), the biggest trade chip in a possible Howard deal.
Williams might be leaning to joining Dallas, and play in his hometown – with or without Howard at his side. Maybe, though, the only thing stopping Williams from forcing his way to Orlando via a trade is Howard.
If Howard finds that the Magic won't gamble on Lopez and accepts the fact he won't be the clear-cut star in either Dallas or L.A…..why doesn't he say, "Deron, come on down to O-Town?!" The tables could turn dramatically. The Magic could try to deal, say, Jameer Nelson, Ryan Anderson and J.J. Redick for Williams. Anderson and Redick have increased their value.
The Mavs: Mark Cuban is looking to snare both Williams and Howard as free agents next summer, all but sacrificing this season after winning a title to make sure the Mavs have cap room. It's a smart, shrewd play.
Putting Dirk, Dwight and Deron on the floor seriously increases the Mavs' chances to make appearances in the Finals for the next decade as the Western Conference representative.
If Howard wants to be a Mav and join Williams, he can tell the Nets and Lakers he won't re-sign with them if traded, killing Orlando's compensation plans.
The nightmare for the Magic is that the Mavs don't have great assets beyond Dirk Nowitzki in a trade situation.
The Lakers: Kobe's club can hold sway in the futures of Howard and Williams and in the fates of Orlando and New Jersey.
The Lakers, by far, have the best assets on the board: big men Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.
They don't want to give up both talents for Howard, preferring to dangle Howard for Bynum, straight up. Maybe they also offer Gasol for Williams, massive upgrades for Kobe's remaining years.
The Lakers could stand pat, but not likely. They aren't off to a great start (5-4) and where they stand before the March 15 trade deadline could affect Howard, if not Williams, too.
All there in black and white
Before Wednesday night's game against the Washington Wizards, Magic players found a copy of their rebounding numbers in their locker.
The sheet from coach Stan Van Gundy covered their rebounding average last season and this season over a projected 36 minutes.
Ryan Anderson, Glen Davis, Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, Quentin Richardson and Chris Duhon all saw that their current averages trailed last season's averages.
"Yeah, see mine? In bold lettering. Never a good sign," Anderson said. "Just about every one of us is in bold except Dwight, of course."
Message delivered. Anderson hauled in 15 rebounds, his season high, against the Wizards.
The old Amway Arena, the Magic's first home, is set to be demolished sometime in March.
If there's a button to be pushed to detonate the explosives, Pat Williams and Jimmy Hewitt should be the fingers on the control.
Hewitt was the man whose idea it was to bring the NBA to town, and Williams made it happen.
Knowing Hewitt's kind soul, I would expect him to pass the honor to Williams, considering Pat has been laying waste to a life-threatening blood disease the past year.
Williams has battled multiple myeloma, undergoing 90 chemo treatments. A full bone marrow transplant, the last step of remission, is scheduled for Feb. 1. "It's the Super Bowl of multiple myeloma," the upbeat Williams said.
This 'n That
Rookie DeAndre Liggins was out Friday after having an allergic reaction to shellfish he ate accidentally. But that's not even in the Magic's top 3 of odd-ball ailments over the years, not with infected hair follicles (Drew Gooden), a bad pedicure (Corey Maggette) and a non-healing skin lesion (Keith Tower)…Asked whether his brother, ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy, would return to coaching, Stan Van said, "It's 50-50. I think he misses it."... A star player who can become a free agent after the season was asked recently by ESPN.com if he wanted to be traded to a contender. Who is it? "One, it's not my style. Maybe I'm old school, but I feel like that's not my place to give up on my team, give up on my teammates. I signed a contract and made a commitment. And two, I don't feel it's like choosing a restaurant. It's got to be a situation that works for two teams. And I don't know how simple that is. But before we even get to that part of it, I just feel that I owe it to my teammates to stay committed to them. I feel that I owe it to the fans and the organization to fight." Unfortunately, it's not Howard. It's Steve Nash.
Dwight Howard's trade plan: It's complicated
Magic star still holds the cards
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