Once the lockout clock mercifully stops, the “what will Dwight Howard do?” clock will start. (Chris Paul will have one, too, but that’s not our focus today.)
Every time Howard speaks directly about Orlando, he says loving and glowing things. But ask him about his legacy and free agency — as Esquire Magazine did — and he sings a different tune. He sounds conflicted.
The tune he sang in Esquire to Scott Raab cannot make Magic fans feel comfortable.
“There’s more you can do in a bigger place. I’m stuck in a tough position because I feel like right now, where I’m at, I’ve done so much. And I just don’t know what else I can do. I can’t live for everybody else. I don’t know what decision I’m gonna make as of right now. It’s been crazy. Everybody wants me to come here, come play here, come to our team, do this. It’s a great feeling, though, to be wanted….
“The toughest part for me is the city — the people. They’ve got burgers named after me in Orlando, they’ve got a Web site saying, “Please stay.” I love the people in the city. I’ve literally sat on the bench with a towel on my head crying, because I feel the passion in the stands. I just think about what’s going to be best for what I want to accomplish in my life. And I don’t want that door to close on me, wherever that door is. I don’t want it to close.”
As we said in our look at the Magic after the lockout, GM Otis Smith has put himself in a corner. They need more talent around Howard, talent that fits better. They have a lot of big contracts from guys that are only moderately helpful, even if they can use the amnesty clause on Gilbert Arenas there is little room to maneuver. The only trade chip of real value is Jameer Nelson, but moving him creates a new hole to fill. There are a lot of challenges and not a lot of options.
To add to that, Howard talked Stan Van Gundy and coaching styles in his interview.
“Stan’s a great guy away from basketball,” Howard said. “He’s passionate. He loves the game. I have no problem with him off the court. The only thing I had a real problem with was the way he coached. It was very tough with Stan, because he yelled a lot, and I don’t want to be that guy to yell at my teammates along with my coach. Because they’re going to turn it all off. I had to find different ways to motivate my team. Sometimes when you have so much negativity, it’s really hard to be positive. I had a lot of negativity growing up, so I understand how to block the negativity out.”
This is the NBA, not a YMCA youth league, so there isn’t really a focus on positive vibes. Still, that factors in — if you don’t think the Magic would kick Van Gundy to the curb to keep Howard, you kid yourself.
I honestly think that Howard does not yet know what he is going to do, but he seems to be leaning going not staying.