Transparency is wonderful. On record, sincere statements are the best. Honesty is fantastic. Bring 'em all on, sometimes.
Orlando Magic general manager Otis Smith just came clean to the Orlando Sentinel about two separate trade demands All-Star center Dwight Howard has made since last Monday (Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski goes a step further, and details that Howard has specifically asked to be sent to the New Jersey Nets) , and honesty aside, all I can wonder is why.
Why would you admit as such, Otis? Because you've just shot to hell whatever leverage you may have had with Howard's potential suitors.
"Dwight Howard has told the Orlando Magic that he wants to be traded, Magic General Manager Otis Smith told the Orlando Sentinel Saturday afternoon.
Smith said Howard has made the request twice in separate conversations since Monday.
Dan Fegan, Howard's agent, didn't immediately return a phone message for comment."
Howard hasn't really had the temerity (or, some would say, cojones) to admit that he isn't planning on re-signing with the Magic when his contract runs out next July. In an interview with ESPN's Ric Bucher last year, he pathetically pretended as if he didn't know that he was legally allowed to sign an extension with the Magic last year, when it was clear that the maximum offer had been on the table for months. He's free to do whatever he wants with his career, including preferring to leave an above-average team with a bloated payroll like the Magic, but he hasn't exactly executed well in this instance.
But Smith? The guy that didn't draft Howard, or his cohort Jameer Nelson, while somehow making ex-GM John Weisbrod's departure look like one of the worst things to happen to the Orlando Magic? He's been pretty bad as well.
We've agreed with plenty of his moves, including passing on overpaying Hedo Turkoglu two years ago in order to fill his salary cap hole with a better player in Vince Carter, and he's endured some bad luck (Carter and Jason Richardson's production fell off the face of the earth after coming to Orlando), but he's made this bed. He's created this pretty good based around two cornerstones that he didn't draft, filling up salary cap spots and needing a desperate amnesty provision just to get under the luxury tax following the release of Gilbert Arenas.
In short, it's not Howard's fault that the Magic aren't taking the next step following that 2009 Finals appearance. And we don't blame him for wanting to leave. In his eyes, he's probably not too keen on taking the pounding in the paint while working for a team he has no future with, so the sooner the better if the Magic could help him in this regard.
Why Smith went public, we don't know. Howard, per NBA rules, will most certainly be fined (even if he isn't on record with the demand). Smith's revelation will tick off his superstar, and nobody will be filling up Smith's call log with great deals, knowing that he's over a barrel. Or, nobody should be. If Howard's preferred destination is New Jersey, all they really have to send is Brook Lopez, two first rounders (one his Houston's, which is lottery-protected, and the other is theirs which will be lottery protected because Dwight Howard will be playing basketball for them), and some payroll relief as the Nets would have to take on Hedo Turkoglu's contract. Not exactly a haul.
There is one easy out, as it has been for months, and that's to trade Howard to Los Angeles for Lakers center Andrew Bynum. Don't blame Howard for taking the Shaquille O'Neal route -- unlike Shaq, Howard jumped at the chance to extend his career in Orlando when his first contract expired back in 2007. The Magic had promise back then, and though they could work their way back to the Finals this year, it would be a bit of a surprise.
Otherwise, teams like the Clippers or Nets are in no rush to pile up the assets, unless their own GMs get silly with things. In the NBA, the "silly" aspect is always something to consider; but even with Howard's MVP-level play and franchise player status, why not let the Magic sweat this one out?
Smith, for his part, is still holding out hope. From the Sentinel:
"He can have his list of teams that he would like to go to, and we've probably got a few on our list of teams that we would like. But at the end of the day, we want him here and we want him in a Magic uniform for his career. With that said, we're going to make the best possible deal that we can make if we have to trade him."
That's nothing new, but to chat about it? New Orleans Hornets GM Dell Demps stayed quiet as he worked the phones on a Chris Paul deal last week, and he'll probably end up with an enviable cadre of talent and trading assets as a result should David Stern finally let a deal go through. Sure, the Warriors or Clippers would be quicker to include a Stephen Curry or Eric Gordon in a deal for Howard (when they wouldn't in any deal for Paul), but with this leverage in place? Dwight Howard is Dwight Howard, but it's Orlando staring down a LeBron James-like exodus.
Of course, not even James bothered with a trade request. This limits Orlando's flexibility, further, while ensuring that they might see a LeBron-esque jump for no compensation.
Just another reminder that behind every disgruntled superstar is an NBA GM that hasn't exactly surrounded that superstar with talent and teammates worth wanting to stick around for. From Cleveland to New Orleans to Denver to Orlando, the impetus stays the same. We can complain about these players wanting to head to larger or sunnier markets, but Howard, LeBron, Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams, and Chris Paul all happily signed second contracts with their original teams, giddy at the growing core they had to look forward to.
Now that Orlando's core is happily losing Gilbert Arenas, potentially losing Jason Richardson, and strangely adding Glen Davis? Can you blame Howard for coming clean?
Off record, at least.