Ball Don't Lie - NBA

This time two years ago, Dwight Howard(notes) was about to begin standing in the paint with his arms extended in order to ward off LeBron James(notes), as his up-and-coming Orlando Magic team were due to upset the 66-win Cleveland Cavaliers. The Magic made it to the finals that year, and with 23-year-old Howard manning the middle and signed long term, the future looked bright.

It looked even brighter when the Magic essentially dumped Hedo Turkoglu(notes) for Vince Carter(notes) in the offseason, mainly because Carter had done everything that Hedo did the year before for Orlando, and quite a bit better. Toss in Brandon Bass(notes) and keeping with the finals-worthy core, and you had a team to pencil in to at least the third round every year.

Except, suddenly, Vince Carter played way worse than Hedo did the year before. Then they traded to get Hedo back, and Hedo played way, way worse than he did the year before. Rashard Lewis(notes) fell off the map, Jameer Nelson(notes) struggled with consistency issues, and suddenly Howard is watching as Gilbert Arenas(notes) "leads" the fast break.

And, suddenly, that "long-term" deal doesn't look as long. Dwight's contract is up next summer, and speculation is rampant as to whether he'll play out the string in Orlando, or be traded before he has a chance to fly away for free (as Shaquille O'Neal once did).

Also, Dwight's kind of sick of all that, and he's taken on his best Dr. Steve Brule voice to let us all know what's up:

"Y does it seem like the writers of Orlando sentinel are tryna push me out of Orlando with dumb articles. It's annoying. Can I enjoy my summer and get ready for next season in Orlando. Pls. Same thing u guys did to Shaq. Smh"

"I'm not blaming the media. I'm saying stop with the dumb articles. They don't make be decision of mine. I jus don't want Orlando fans to believe them. Cuz they don't know. I love my city"

When talk of a nonexistent trade between Orlando and Los Angeles batted around on national TV over the weekend, it probably was time to say something.

Mainly because all indications have the Orlando Magic doing everything in their power to keep Howard happy, even if it risks the relative success of the team. The Magic will hire and fire and then sign 12 of Howard's nieces and nephews (assuming he has 12; that would be a lot for someone his age) in order to keep him happy, and they'd much prefer winning 15 games with Dwight Howard signed long-term to a roster that wins 45 with Andrew Bynum(notes) on board.

None of this exasperation is good for the Magic, though. If these moves eventually turn into some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy and Howard gets sick of the rumors and insinuations, then the anger over his uncertain future with the trade rumors could rise to the level of anger and frustration that he has with the team.

Or he could, y'know, go ahead and sign that contract extension. Then all of this would go away.

He wants to have it both ways -- the freedom that comes with leaving your options open, without the noise that follows that uncertainty -- and we don't blame him. The Magic front office has let him down, though it should be noted that I was right there in encouraging each and every one of Orlando's moves since the team made the finals. Howard had an MVP season, but he could muster up much support in the race because his defensive rebounds eventually led to a 3-pointer from Turkoglu or a terrible runner from Arenas. I'd be ticked, too.

But I'd also want to stay in Orlando, a town I know, making more money there than anywhere else. Howard's reaction to all of this is spot on, dummies.

(Via Then Trey wrote something on it. Photo thanks to Getty Images.)

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