The Dwight Howard drama is over with Thursday’s blockbuster trade (pending league approval.)
Our National Dwightmare is over — at least that’s what everybody says outside of Orlando. We know better.
It will never be over, not really.
Like Shaq’s exit, it will never ever leave a Magic fan’s subconscious.
It will haunt.
Time marches on, more players will come and go, but the wound in Orlando never fully heals.
To have it happen once during your history is bad enough. But twice? The Magic losing the league’s best big man again? And to the Lakers?
Heck, Howard didn’t even want to follow Shaq’s path and go to L.A. He just ran out of destinations.
This deja’ Dwight is cruel and unusual punishment for Magic faithful.
There’s no consoling them. Howard was here eight years, twice as long as Shaq, but his departure is a monumental setback for the franchise.
It took the Magic eight years to recover from the loss of Shaq, when they landed Dwight in the 2004 draft. This time, they won’t have Penny Hardaway, Nick Anderson, Horace Grant and Dennis Scott.
On Thursday, the Magic dealt the disgruntled Howard to the Lakers, who won the trade and the NBA offseason in a rout. And don’t be surprised if Howard pushes the Lakers to a championship, teaming with Steve Nash and Kobe and Pau Gasol.
Shaq provided the Lakers with three titles (as if any Magic fan forgot).
The hamstrung Magic knew they would not get equal value for Dwight. And they didn’t come close.
“Are you kidding me?” said one depressed Magic fan in an e-mail to me.
Orlando either did not want the league’s second-best center for Howard — the Lakers’ Andrew Bynum — or Bynum didn’t want to commit to the Magic after his deal expires this season. But then Howard apparently isn’t committing to the Lakers and Bynum apparently will explore free agency after his year in Philly.
Gasol was believed to be part of the four-team deal at one time, perhaps headed to Orlando, but he remained with the Lakers.
I wanted the Magic to push for Bynum, bad knees and pending free agency and all. At least then you’d have a 24-year-old big man to rebuild around.
The Magic could have acquired center Brook Lopez in a deal with the Brooklyn Nets, Howard’s No. 1 traded destination, but backed out. I don’t blame them for that one.
Unless there are other yet-to-be-named players involved, new GM Rob Hennigan will have a tough time selling this one. If nothing else, I just want to hear him at last utter the word “rebuilding” and make it official.
But here’s what Hennigan accomplished: The Magic, in effect, got FIVE first-round picks, shed cumbersome contracts of two aging players and obtained a veteran with an expiring deal who can be traded.
This is the team-building exercise that Hennigan learned when he was with the Oklahoma City Thunder — build on draft picks — and it’s why the Magic hired him.
And Henningan did ship Howard to the Western Conference, refusing to build Brooklyn into another hurdle for the Magic to climb in an Eastern Conference already owned by Miami.
For Howard, the Magic received young shooting guard and wing defender Arron Afflalo and veteran small forward Al Harrington from the Denver Nuggets and center Nikola Vucevic from the Philadelphia 76ers, who landed Bynum and aging Magic shooting guard Jason Richardson.
The Magic shed J-Rich’s contract (three more years at $6 mill a season), but inherited Afflalo’s deal, which averages about $7.7 million for four more seasons (last season is a player option.)
Harrington’s best days are behind him, but he does have a $6.6 million expiring deal and likely will be trade bait.
Vucevic, a 7-footer, has promise, recording a double-double in two games against the Celtics last season.
According to ESPN, the Magic also acquired the 76ers’ first-round pick, small forward Moe Harkless, and three future first round picks. But those picks likely won’t be all that valuable unless the Magic bundle them later into another deal.
If you look at both Harkless and Vucevic — a rookie last season — as draft picks, the Magic corraled a total of five first-rounders.
Yahoo!Sports reports that the Lakers also will receive Magic point guard Chris Duhon and power forward Earl Clark. Duhon detractors — and there are many— at least have something to celebrate with his departure.
This is Phase I of the Magic makeover. Phase II comes with the Harrington trade and perhaps a deal involving J.J. Redick, who is in the last year of his contract. The Magic can shed more salary by unloading Redick’s $6 million.
And now they better tank this season and next — playing the young guys a lot — to get top lottery picks.
For Magic fans, the club that is testing your patience is asking for more of it for the next three or four seasons.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun