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Ball Don't Lie

Dwight Howard discusses the ‘hell’ that was his last year in Orlando

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Dwight Howard looks forward to his cake, and then eating it too (Getty Images)

Mocking Dwight Howard's attempts to shift the narrative surrounding his ham-fisted but ultimately successful move from Orlando to Los Angeles doesn't make a lick of difference. He won, getting to play with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash along the way, while tact and a couple hundred thousand Magic fans lost. And news that he preferred a trade to the not-yet Brooklyn Nets, and the way he chides us for not understanding "the business side"? It's just another frustrating mark, one we're going to remind you of before we settle in to watching Dwight and his Lakers potentially dominate the NBA between now and late June.

In an interview with Stephen A. Smith on Thursday, Howard shrugged his shoulders one more time in reference to the needlessly long back and forth between the center and Magic management that ultimately ended in the trade that sent him to Los Angeles in early August:

"I thought I was going to get traded at the beginning of the year, actually, that's when I asked for it. But everything happened for a reason. I had to go through last year to get to where I'm at today. It's made me a stronger and better person for it. I had to go through the hell and the stormy forecast to come out to a place like this … and I'm thankful for it.

[…].

"I think a lot of it was people just felt like I was going back and forth with the whole thing," Howard said. "But the business side, people don't understand, when you're doing business you have to be a shark. You have to demand things. If you don't, people will run over you, and that was a lesson that I learned.

" … At the end of the day, you can't please everybody. There's gonna be people happy about me staying, there's gonna be people happy about me leaving. … I'm over that now. I can't control the way how people feel about me."

"Go through the hell." Lovely perspective, from someone who basically had to play 57 NBA games, opt into the last year of a contract that pays him over $19.5 million, and endure the embarrassment of his coach being honest about Dwight asking that the coach lose his job. Hell that ends in, once again, being traded to a team featuring Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol.

What Dwight doesn't understand is that we do understand the business aspect of it. More so than Howard does, it appears.

Because the old Orlando Magic front office (which, unfortunately, parts of which still remain within the current Orlando Magic front office) was as indecisive as Howard was in detailing their plans to deal with or deal away the superstar, it was unclear heading into last March's trade deadline as to whether or not Dwight was going to remain with the team or head to his preferred Nets in a deal. Rumors abounded that Howard was frightened at the prospect of the Magic sending him to play with the Lakers, which should tell you all you need to know about Dwight Howard the basketball-enjoyer.

With that fear in place, and a cast of mediocre teammates he did not want to disappoint, Dwight decided on a plane ride back to Florida following a Magic loss to San Antonio that he would opt-in to the final year of his deal. Sound move, professionally, if Dwight was planning on playing out the year and pushing again for a trade during the offseason.

Instead, he took part in an embarrassing (for team, and player) press conference trumping up the option-taking, discussing his loyal nature with one breath while declining to answer questions about a loyalty-based contract extension (all fully legal and available at the time) with the Magic in the next.

This is what Dwight doesn't get. If he wanted out of Orlando, we understand — the team former GM Otis Smith put around him stunk. Don't play it both ways, though, and chide us for not understanding the game. We get it. You just pray we don't, while you attempt to play both sides and hope to appear sweet and unassuming instead of duplicitous and borderline feckless.

However, you are correct in the fact that "you have to be a shark," Dwight.

Sharks don't get to ease into a cardigan, Mr. Rogers-style, as they address the camera. Sharks can pick up the option, if only to guarantee a larger payday once the draft night or offseason trade has been executed, and then decline the self-congratulatory press conference soon after. Sharks don't pin your unemployment demands on media rumor mongering seconds after the coach confirms that you asked for him to be made into chum. When you're a shark, you're a shark all the way. From your first cigarette, to your last dyin' day.

I think that's how the number goes.

You're the villain now, Dwight, and you're going to have to find a way to embrace it. You're on a team with a star that publicly calls out several ex-teammates for no reason, and passes it off as "leadership" without a hint of self-awareness. You're on a team with a personnel boss that giddily goes on record to discuss the impending 2014 contract expiration of a respected four-time All-Star. You're a Laker, which is polarizing enough; but now you're set for dozens of national TV appearances between now and summer, and you're going to have to get used to the fact that you've bungled your way into something special.

And that we know you've bungled it, mishandled every aspect of it, and lucked out. We, to use your word, "understand."

We're dealing with it, Dwight. Time for you to, as well.

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