Give Dwight Howard this — he is trying.
LeBron James made a half-hearted effort to stamp out the free agent rumor circus around him, but at first he seemed to enjoy the attention enough that he let the fire start and by the time he tried to put it out it was too late. Carmelo Anthony didn’t even try, he seemed to revel in the attention, at least at first.
Dwight Howard is having none of that. He has been aggressive in shooting down he rumors.
Howard can opt out of his deal in the summer of 2012 and become a free agent (under whatever the new collective bargaining agreement looks like). If he picks up his option for that season then the speculation can be about the 2013 summer. Howard just averaged 27 points on 63 percent shooting with 15.5 rebounds per game in the playoffs, yet his team was eliminated because those around him were not good enough. The Magic have regressed. He’s frustrated with the loss (as he should be).
So, clearly he is going to push to be a Laker, right? Or a Knick. Or Net. Or…
Howard has been far more direct about not playing that rumor game than previous people in his situation. Here is what he told the Orlando Sentinel after the Magic were eliminated and a reporter started to broach the free agency topic.
“That has nothing to do with right now,” Howard said. “There’s no need for me to comment on it. So, you know, let’s not even talk about it. There’s no need to bring it up. Right now, I’m going to figure out how can I get myself better for next season, not about what team I want to play for. But right now I’m with the Magic, so all the speculation can stop. There’s no need to talk about it.”
Prior to Game 4, Howard confronted Ric Bucher and asked, “Where am I going, so I can tell my agent and my family?”
Bucher had reported that Howard might be traded to the Lakers. The fact Howard sought him out directly shows how serious he is about not wanting all the speculation.
But with the Magic’s recent play, as much as he may not play the speculation game, others will for him. The best he can do is not play along and try to keep the volume down.