I better not wake up next week and see that Dwight Howard has taken a full-page ad in the Orlando Sentinel. I don’t want to see any grinning image of Howard in a Magic uniform, I don’t want to see any message of how much his time in Orlando meant to him, I don’t want any platitudes of wishing the fans well.
He wrecked a franchise. He wrecked a fanbase. He bailed on the city, and in doing so, ruined their ability to get anything close to a comprehensive package back. He hurt them for a year, forced out a great coach, embarrassed the franchise and the city, and destroyed any leverage they could have had.
And now he’s a Laker. He got what he wanted.
There’s something inherently wrong in how this played out. Carmelo Anthony jacked with the season, held the franchise in limbo, but went about his business. He didn’t reassert his desire over and over again. His agent leaked enough to make his intention clear, but there wasn’t information deliberately leaked from Anthony’s camp to harm their leverage. In fact, Anthony handled it much better than Howard did.
Think about that.
Even LeBron James, hosting teams for meetings in Akron, not telling the Cavaliers, he held them hostage for just two weeks. Then he was gone. It was painful, and outrageous, and should not have been done on national television. But it was nothing compared to what Howard left them with. Which was nothing.
You can blame the Magic all you want, and you have a point. It was Otis Smith’s desperate decision making that lead to the large contracts that limited their cap space. The Magic could have held out for a better, different deal. They could have made the deal a year ago, they could have saved themselves. But Howard could have not forced them to save themselves.
And now he gets everything he wanted, if not exactly what he wanted. He still gets the superstar team. He gets the warm weather (nicer than Brooklyn). He gets the star point guard. He gets the commercial opportunities and television and film opportunities. He gets the money and a chance to re-up with the Lakers for the five-year max deal in 2013. This situation is actually better than what he would have found in Brooklyn.
So what lesson do we take? We take that you can undermine your coach, demand a trade, constantly hamper and limit your team’s abilities to trade you and get the best possible deal for you, jerk them around for three days then decide to opt-in, getting their hopes up, then immediately demand a trade again, then have your people leak information to damage their ability to get the best deal, and you get everything your heart desires. This isn’t just player power or freedom. This is exploitation of a franchise and its fans.
Stan Van Gundy is one of the best coaches in the league, and he’s gone. Ryan Anderson was maybe their most promising young player, and he’s gone. They made the Finals in 2009, that’s gone. The Magic have been rendered to ash by Howard and his power play. There’s nothing left.
So, no, Howard should not thank the fans. He shouldn’t say anything else. He’s said more than enough for a lifetime, with his words. He said it when he demanded a trade from a team that had done a better job than many of building around their star, from the team that helped develop him into the player he is today. He said it with the way he pressured and conspired with his agent to not only exercise his completely understandable right to leave in free agency, but to be sent where he wanted so he could re-sign for the five-year deal. And he said it when he skipped the kids’ camp this week in Orlando.
No thanks for the thanks, Dwight. You won, now do us all a favor and play basketball so we never have to talk about any of this ugly affair ever again.