Reports had surfaced long before the trade deadline that Dwight Howard had ruled out going to the Lakers. Maybe it was a meeting with Kobe Bryant that rubbed him the wrong way (Kobe allegedly told Howard he would be the third option on offense). Maybe it was him not wanting to follow in Shaquille O’Neal’s footsteps.
But apparently Howard’s distaste for going to the Lakers was so strong the Magic were able to use it as leverage to get him to waive his option year and stay in Orlando.
That is what the New York Post is reporting.
According to league sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Orlando brass got fed up with Howard’s yes-no-maybe posturing and threatened to trade him to the Lakers, not his desired location (the Nets), if he did not sign an agreement to waive the opt-out clause for the final season of his contract. Howard eventually signed the papers, but only after he was told “he would be a Laker by the end of the day,” according to one source.
Howard was waffling before the threat — he was not fully ready to force his way out of Orlando to the Nets and come out of it the bad guy. He does like Orlando, but he wants to win and likes the idea of New York. He changed his mind a few times. So…
Orlando played its trump card. Sources for months maintained Howard wanted no part of the Lakers, that he did not want to follow the legacy of Shaquille O’Neal. Orlando leaders had one other reason for the threat: They favored the Lakers’ package of Andrew Bynum, Devin Ebanks and Steve Blake over the Nets’ offer.
When was the last time you remember a free agent trying hard to avoid going to the Lakers? That said, you may want to take a grain of salt with the report — whether this was the determining factor or one smaller factor among many can be up for debate.
What is not up for debate is Magic have real problems — Howard’s feud with coach Stan Van Gundy has gone public in an ugly way. That combined with the state of the roster (not a contender and not close to being one) and it is going to be hard to keep Howard around after his contract is up in 2013.
If he is going to bolt then, the Magic have to trade him, ideally this summer before the circus comes back to town next season. And you can bet that Lakers package is still on the table.
Oh, things are a hot mess in Orlando right now.