I mean, obviously we’re not happy that the NBA has been reduced to a spending spree by big-market teams in which they load down their shopping carts with as many glitzy parts as possible and hope these parts assemble into something resembling a tank of a basketball team by the playoffs. Those of us who root for teams that are forced to build piece-by-piece in the draft have no interest in this arms race that seeks to recreate certain line-ups from USA Basketball every few years.
Nevertheless, with the ascension of the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder, each with their triumvirates of superior talent, it’s impossible to deny that in order to compete for a title teams are going to have to bring some serious firepower. In this regard, at least the Howard trade puts the Lakers in the mix of legitimate title contenders. Watching them square off against the Thunder in the conference finals should be delicious, and I’m already thinking ahead to the defensive bullet-hitting-a-bullet block party between Howard and Serge Ibaka.
The Howard trade also means that I don’t have to hear about Dwight Howard (pictured in Magic garb because I'm lazy) trade rumors every fifteen seconds on ESPN and my preferred basketball podcasts. Frankly—and stop me if I’m way overstating the case—the last two seasons of will-he-won’t-he Howard trade speculation has been more obnoxious than LeBron James bit-by-bit tease with Chicago, New York, and ultimately Miami. “Jesus Christ, Dwight Howard and Orlando,” I would frequently say to my iPod or ESPN.com. “Just go somewhere else or shut up and play in Florida. I don’t care. Just make it be over."
Finally, there are some ancillary benefits to the I-guess-I-like-it-okay result of the Howard imbroglio, beginning with Andrew Bynum’s move to Philadelphia. Philly actually already had a surprisingly decent team, and adding Bynum to the mix gives them an interesting core of young players that includes Spencer Hawes (who embarrassed the Bulls in the playoffs), Jrue Holiday and my boy, Evan Turner. Obviously, I’m not saying Philly’s coming out of the East but with the Celtics on the wane, the Knicks perennially useless (how do you let Jeremy Lin go?!), and the Bulls trapped with bloated contracts and an injured Derrick Rose, I could see Philly making a run to the conference finals.
I’ve found it nearly incomprehensible to hash out the potpourri of players and draft picks the Magic got out of all this, but it only supports my thesis that NBA teams should be far more mercenary in dealing with their “franchise” or “once-in-a-generation” players. Don’t wait until these guys get hurt or pissy and demand a trade. In the NBA you’re either one of three teams competing for the ‘ship or one of three teams competing for the top pick (Did I just rap? Sweet). Everyone in between has to be making moves to get better or get much worse.
Of course, I’m open to having my mind changed on this, so if anyone can point out why I should hate the Howard trade, please let me know. For those who miss my inexpert opinion on sports (the best thing about sports being that you can know almost nothing and still predict everything better than the guys who think about it way too much), don’t worry: football season is almost here, and the Cleveland Browns Superbowl victory less than six months away.