In the summer of 2012, Dwight Howard can be a free agent. (He has a player option for 2013.)
Orlando General Manager Otis Smith watched what happened in Cleveland last summer with keen interest — the superstar player in a smallish market who didn’t win the title he craved and bolted town because of it. Smith knows that a big man named Shaquille O’Neal did that exact same thing to Orlando a little more than a decade ago.
Smith heard Howard tell him over the summer he wanted Chris Paul or Carlos Boozer as a teammate because they needed to get in the arms race, according to Ken Berger at CBSSports. Those deals did not come together.
Then Smith watched the Magic stumble out of the gates… well, for them. The Magic are 16-10 but were clearly a step behind the Celtics and Heat (and basically even with a Bulls team that can’t stay healthy so far). Then Smith looked west and saw the struggles of the Denver front office, having to move Carmelo Anthony before the deadline so that they don’t end up like Cleveland.
Smith knew he had no choice — swing for the fences and win now. Make a big, bold trade. So he did. Hedo Turkoglu comes back. Gilbert Arenas gets a second chance. Jason Richardson comes to town. There’s some wild cards, some risks, but no doubt this is a bold move.
Will it be enough?
Only time will tell — but credit Smith for going big. Rather than waiting and hoping, rather than making smaller moves, he swung for the fences. It could fail and with it Smith could have endangered his job. That didn’t deter him, he went for it all.
It could lead to other problems — Jameer Nelson could be a free agent in the summer of 2012 too and may not like having Arenas around. But Smith is close to Arenas, plus he had no real choice.
Now we’ll watch and see if Smith connected and hit a home run. Enough of a hit to keep Howard in Orlando.