As soon as Dwight Howard realized that new Magic general manager Rob "Hardball" Hennigan wasn't going to give him his way and trade him to Brooklyn, he suddenly had a change of heart and decided that, hmmm, maybe he'd go play for the Lakers after all.
What happened to Dwight not wanting to follow in Shaq's footsteps? What happened to Dwight wanting to be THE man on a team? What happened to Dwight wanting to build his own legacy somewhere?
What happened is this: Hennigan, by not bending to Dwight's demands, forced him to change his mind and flip-flop once again. And you know what? Hennigan should keep the hammer down, make Dwight squirm a little longer and a little harder and see if he will open up his trade-request list even more.
What's the hurry here? The season doesn't start for months and the trade deadline isn't until February. Hennigan has said that he is a GM who will take a strategic, analytical approach, and that's exactly what he's doing. Just because Twitterville and ESPN insiders are going gaga at the prospect of Dwight playing in L.A., Hennigan knows there's no need for the Magic to jump at the first deal the Lakers offer.
Wait until the Houston Rockets resolve their offer sheet to Omer Asik and see how much they are still interested in Dwight. Maybe Houston's offer is better than the Lakers' deal. And what exactly is this supposed Lakers' deal? Nobody even knows.
If the proposed deal is Lakers' center Andrew Bynum for Dwight, the Magic certainly need to check out the status of Bynum's knees and find out if Bynum will sign a long-term extension in Orlando. If it's the proposed three-team deal including the Cleveland Cavaliers – the Lakers get Dwight, the Cavs get Andrew Bynum and the Magic get Anderson Varejao and some draft picks – why would the Magic even consider such a minimal return on the most dominant center in the league?
Come on, Lakers … seriously? You really think you're going to get one of the five best players in the league, and all the Magic get is Anderson Varejao and some draft picks? The proposed Brooklyn deal – Brook Lopez, some draft picks and cap flexibility -- was better than this. Let's get real: Orlando will always be able to get some draft picks and cap flexibility for a future Hall-of-Famer.
That's why the Magic need to wait and make Dwight sweat some more. Look what happened last week when the Magic turned the heat on low and refused to trade Dwight to Brooklyn. He blinked and is now reportedly agreeable to going to the Lakers. Why not turn up the Heat a little higher and little hotter and see if he'll open up his trade-request list even more?
If Dwight will play for the Lakers, why not the Clippers? Maybe the Magic could work a deal for exciting, young superstar Blake Griffin. Or what about the Bulls or the Thunder? Why not see if he'll sign a long-term deal with those two teams as well? He could do a whole lot worse than playing with Derrick Rose in Chicago or Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City.
The fact is Dwight would probably agree to play just about anywhere to avoid coming back to Orlando this season. I don't believe he has the stomach to suit up for the Magic at the beginning of the season and take the court as angry Orlando fans shower him with boos, venom and vitriol. This is the leverage Dwight gave the Magic when he made the foolish decision in March to opt-in, disingenuously professing his "loyalty" to the city of Orlando.
As I wrote last week when the Magic refused the Brooklyn deal, Dwight gave Orlando a hammer when he opted-in.
Rob "Hardball" Hennigan needs to continue to use that hammer until he pounds out the best deal possible – not for Dwight Howard and the ESPN insiders but for the Orlando Magic.
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