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Ball Don't Lie

Dwight Howard might be creating the worst trade deadline ever

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

Poor Orlando. With nothing on the trade horizon that makes any sense to trade for in return for All-Star center Dwight Howard, it'll simply have to fall back on playing with its MVP-level center from here until the playoffs, where it'll probably make it to the second round while taking in a fair amount of playoff gate receipts.

Poor Orlando Magic fans. They've been disappointed by both players (Jameer Nelson, Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter falling off the face of the earth, plus Gilbert Arenas' fitful one season in Florida) and front office types on their way to what Howard considers an untenable situation. It's so distasteful to him that the center might turn down more money (much, much more more money money, maaan) to go play for a team in Brooklyn that won't even make the playoffs this year.

Poor NBA fans. This time last year you had one Carmelo Anthony rumor per day to look forward to in anticipation of the trade deadline, and then the Deron Williams shocker soon after. Then, late on a busy trade deadline day, Kendrick Perkins weirdly went to Oklahoma City. This time around? With just over a week to go before the March 15 trade deadline, there's absolutely nothing in the air unless Orlando completely reverses its stated course on Howard. Trade deadline day might be completely overshadowed by the opening round of the NCAA men's basketball bracket, and you have Orlando to blame for that.

Not that Orlando, the team, cares. Nor should it.

Once it became clear in December that even a slightly enthused Howard would be enough to put the Magic in contention for the East's third seed, the Magic's willingness to roll the dice and keep Howard throughout the entire 2011-12 season made all the sense in the world. Making life easier for Magic GM Otis Smith was the paucity of trading options for Howard; partially hamstrung by Dwight's wishes to only be traded to certain teams (though that really isn't his call, in the end), but mostly because there just aren't that many good packages out there to try to deal for.

As the NBA New Orleans learned, when trading a superstar it's best to attempt to deal one of your millstone contracts in addition to the superstar, so as to ease the rebuilding effort. It's a five-man game, and if one of those men is an MVP-level player and you drop him for assets, you're going to be rebuilding within seconds. No point in heading into that movement with a crummy contract or three still on your books.

The Magic, thus far at least, haven't been able to find anyone to take off Hedo Turkoglu's contract, or Jameer Nelson's deal. And stuck with a litany of bad contracts that they signed in order to keep Howard happy (like Glen Davis and Jason Richardson, last winter), packaging the crummy parts is a necessary function.

Howard hamstrung any attempts, though, by issuing that list of teams he'd like to be sent to. Even last year, with Carmelo Anthony's stated preference for New York all but in place, squads were still lining up to attempt three and four-team deals to bring the scorer in. This time around, teams aren't willing to take that chance, not when the Nets have cleared up cap space for the big man this summer. And because Isiah Thomas isn't playing puppetmaster with Billy King's team in New Jersey, they won't jump the gun and send assets out for a player they could sign outright (to a cheaper deal) in the offseason. The Nets are smartly waiting this one out.

Not that they have much choice, either, because Orlando hasn't shown much interest in a package possibly centering around center Brook Lopez, even if Lopez had enjoyed a healthy 2011-12. As a result? Nada.

No deals, yet. No big rumors. And most telling of all, to me at least, no whispers of teams gathering assets and moveable parts in order to clear up cap space for this summer (which does figure to be a pretty fair one for free agents, even with Howard presumably headed to the Nets). Nobody's attempting that big domino move, which is odd because the playoff brackets in both conferences are just about set. There are a couple of hangers-on out West that still have a chance to sneak into that eighth seed, but by and large 12 or 13 teams know that they're out of the hunt right now, and yet we can't hear a thing.

Steve Blake trades don't count.

In NBA circles, it's early. There are eight days to go, entire franchise futures at stake, and a whole lot of GMs hoping to make the first big splash of the new collective bargaining agreement that didn't involve taking advantage of Los Angeles Laker cheapness or Stu Jackson's inability to properly trade a point guard. Things could change. The transaction wire could leave us spinning. Big names, or many names, could still move.

Don't be surprised if things stay this mellow, though. And you have Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic to blame for that. Poor them, poor us.

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