Dwight's tattered image needs wins

Howard might need to expand trade list

There's really only one way Dwight Howard can clean up this oil spill on his image as a coach-killing conspirator and wrecking-ball flip-flopper.

Win.

And win big.

If he's leaving Orlando — and although he hasn't publicly declared it, most think he's history — Dwight needs to put himself in position to capture a title.

This requirement must zoom to the top of his priorities.

No one is totally convinced that winning a championship is No. 1 to him. Howard talks about it a lot. But his actions, from his trade-demand list to the ensuing drama to his leadership, say otherwise.

The Magic, privately, have their doubts.

Howard helped plant the seeds with his desire to join New Jersey last season while balking at being dealt to the L.A. Lakers.

Skeptics scoffed at why he limited his trade scenarios to, basically, one team — the lowly Nets — and didn't include more contending cities.

Howard was being lured by the New York market (the Nets are moving to Brooklyn this season) to capitalize on his brand and become a larger celeb.

Howard turned down the control needed to jump on that opportunity. It didn't matter whether the Magic were going to trade him to the Lakers or the Houston Rockets or elsewhere. He could have gone somewhere as a rental and become a free agent his summer, bound for the Nets.

Instead, he opted in to play next season in Orlando, a baffling decision.

And now?

Things might have changed. Remember when Deron Williams was waiting on Dwight to join him in New Jersey? Now Dwight could be waiting on Williams, who will be a free agent this summer.

Without Williams re-signing with the Nets, how can Howard justify heading to Brooklyn by his lonesome? He might be dying to leave Orlando, but that gets us back to our original premise.

Dwight needs to align himself with a winner to clear his name. He'll win less in Brooklyn than in Orlando without Williams.

I don't think he has any other choice but to expand his trade list — or reluctantly follow Shaq's path to the Lakers. Why not make the Clippers an option? Dwight is practically an L.A. resident.

The Bulls and Thunder have pieces to work a trade for him. They win. You win, Dwight.

The Knicks? They're on the biggest stage, but they're a flawed team. Howard would have a shot with Carmelo Anthony, although a Tyson Chandler package is not a great deal for the Magic.

Shaq took grief leaving Orlando but won three titles with the Lakers. (He got the best of both worlds: drowning in championships and Hollywood celebrity.)

LeBron James is chasing a title after running out on the Cavs. Say what you want about him piggybacking Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, but LeBron's no dummy. Parades get everyone off your back.

Unless Howard, 26, has patience to remain with the Magic — ask 'Melo about greener grass — he has to expand his options. This obviously will be the biggest move of his career, a move that can help refurbish his image. Time to put away childish things.

Dwight has to be all in to win.

Magic reunion?

Former Phoenix Suns GM Steve Kerr, an TNT analyst, said he was "really happy right now" when asked about the Magic's GM opening, but look for the Magic to find out how happy he really is.

The organization has had a fondness for Kerr, a shooting guard who played here in 1992-93. Steve wasn't happy when the Magic didn't re-sign him, but it turned out to be a blessing: He won three titles with the Bulls and two with the Spurs.

Another former Magic guard, Brian Shaw, could not comment on the record several weeks ago when I spoke with him, but make no mistake: The Pacers' associate head coach would take the vacant Magic coaching job in a heartbeat.

An avid fisherman, Shaw could also return to his favorite spots on Orlando's lakes.

"I love to fish. Put me around some water, I'm happy. I lived on Lake Butler, the chain of lakes," Shaw said. "l bought my first boat when I was there in Orlando from one of the companies Rich DeVos had holdings in."

Stan's mom and dad

Of course, I'll also miss being around Stan Van Gundy's parents, Bill and Cindy, before the games. They sat on the bench, usually chatting with assistant coaches.

They are ardent moviegoers, and that's where I got my best reviews.

I heard a funny line on the coaching professional from Bill, a former high-school and small-college coach who was still so antsy before Stan's games that he would pace the Amway Center concourses.

Bill's advice to both of his boys, Stan and Jeff, was twofold:

•If you want to be loved, don't coach.

•Save your packing boxes for your next move.

This 'n' that

A person close to Joseph Donald "Donnie" Walsh, 71, said the former Pacers and Knicks front-office exec would be interested in overseeing the Magic operation and that his health is good. Walsh had hip and neck surgeries in the last two years. … Shaq still needs sensitivity training. Doesn't he know that even joking about "pursuing" the Magic GM job after wrecking the franchise 16 years ago hits a nerve in Orlando? ... If the Spurs face the Celtics next month, would the series qualify as the NBA Finals or an old-timers' game? Celtics PF Kevin Garnett, 36, isn't amused at the media cracking wise when he has a great game: "It's almost like you guys are shocked, like this ain't what I do every day, like this ain't what I was made for. It does come off disrespectful at times." … Shaq released a statement saying he would not pursue the Republican vice-presidential post.

bschmitz@tribune.com
 

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