Otis Smith wants nothing more than to retain superstar center Dwight Howard for the long term, but in an interview Wednesday, the Orlando Magic's general manager wouldn’t rule out trading Howard if he has no other choice.
“I think you have to look at everything,” Smith told the Orlando Sentinel when asked if he'd consider dealing Howard to another team.
“I don’t think you can take anything out of consideration. I think, one, you have to talk to your player first. We have to figure out where his head is, not where everyone thinks his head is, and just more figure out where he wants to be. And then you have to make the best decision of what’s in the best interests of the franchise. That’s how I’ve always went about it: to make the best decision that’s in the best interests of the Orlando Magic.
“I think you have to wait and leave all that up in the air. I don’t think you can say you will or you won’t [trade] at this point, because you don’t know what you don’t know. I can speculate based on what I read and hear, but that’s really not fair to Dwight and it’s not fair to us. So you have to have a conversation with him about what he wants to do, and then you have to make the best decision that’s in the best interests of the franchise, as always.”
Wednesday marked the first day since the NBA lockout started July 1 that team employees across the league were permitted to speak with agents.
Smith expected to talk with Howard’s California-based agent, Dan Fegan, who also represents unrestricted free agent Jason Richardson and has close ties to Gilbert Arenas. But as of 8 p.m. Wednesday, Smith and Fegan hadn’t connected yet, Smith said.
Wednesday also provided the first opportunity in five months for team employees to comment publicly about specific players.
In an interview with the Sentinel, Smith said he hasn’t decided whether he will use the amnesty provision that is included in the tentative labor agreement.
Arenas and Hedo Turkoglu seem like the Magic's primary amnesty candidates because of their high salaries, the number of seasons remaining on their contracts and their often disappointing performance in 2010-11.
“We’re still working out the details of that, so I’m not going to say we won’t,” Smith said. “I’m not saying we will. You have to look at everything in its entirety. You have to look at the whole picture.”
For now, though, Howard’s future is the dominant storyline in the NBA. Trade rumors have swirled — and will continue to — but as of Wednesday afternoon, Smith said he hadn’t received any offers.
Howard, who can become a free agent in the summer of 2012, has said publicly that he hasn’t made a decision yet about his future. But Howard raised eyebrows when, in an interview with Esquire magazine, he acknowledged that playing in a big market has some appeal to him.
Smith emphasized that he hasn’t received any messages from Howard’s camp through back channels over the last few months.
And Smith won’t be allowed by the league to speak with Howard, or any player, for at least several days.
What Smith ultimately decides to do may hinge on what’s said in that meeting, or in another one like it down the road.
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