Photo by Fernando Medina
I don’t want to belabor the point, but it might take more than a billboard to keep Dwight Howard in Orlando next season.
This has been a backend conversation all season long, and while most Orlando fans have considered it foolishness that Dwight would ever up and leave Orlando, it’s starting to become evident that the Magic don’t have a lot to barter with.
Look at StayDwight.com, a website and foundation created by Ryan Totka to try to convince Dwight to stay in Orlando. It’s endearing, to be sure.
As the season started winding down and the playoffs loomed in the near distance, Magic fans and writers grew more and more skeptical of the Magic, and more and more in tune with this glaring problem of how to keep Dwight in Orlando.
Now we’re in the playoffs, and after Game 1, things look decidedly worse.
Dwight’s decision after this season remains a touchy one, and everyone, including Ryan Totka, knows it. In a section on his site titled, “Why Stay in Orlando,” Totka talks about the community and the economy, two things that, as seen before, don’t really matter to a competitive basketball player. If I’m Dwight Howard, I want a website that shows me with the use of advanced statistics that I have nothing to worry about in the next ten seasons. I want a breakdown of how a revamped bench and a healthy Gilbert Arenas will change things for the Magic. In other words, Dwight needs to know that if he stays in Orlando the Magic are going to win.
That’s not the message he’s getting right now.
I hate to start making LeBron James comparisons from 2009, but this is looking too similar. You’ve got a league juggernaut that has been with the same team since the beginning. He was the centerpiece of a budding organization, the reason for an economy boost in the city, the MVP on a perennial playoff contender, and the owner of zero NBA championship rings.
To make matters worse, and to further illustrate the LeBron comparison, in his contract year the variables around him seemed to be a tipping point, all culminating in what might be an early playoff exit.
It’s probably too early to start panicking and burning jerseys, but losing to Atlanta in the state-of-the-art Amway Center does not bode well for the Dwight faithful.
The perplexing thing is that it still seems wrong to think Dwight would go anywhere. I would like to get into his head right about now. We know that he points the finger at his teammates for not playing hard, but I wonder how he would chose to fix this problem given the opportunity. Who would he add to the mix? Does he picture himself on another team? If so, who? Is there anyone in particular that he would like to see out of the Orlando locker room?
Dwight is a center, not a coach, but if I am Stan Van Gundy or anyone else in the Magic organization with some clout, I’m asking these very specific questions to Dwight. I think that is where Cleveland went wrong with LeBron. They gave him the option of dreaming about a better situation. When it gets to that point, no grassroots campaign in the world, and no number of billboards are going to keep your guy in town. If the Magic get squeezed out by Atlanta in the first round, it seems like Dwight will have gotten to that point.
In a word, Orlando needs a spark, and they need it quick, and they need it to come from guys like Gilbert Arenas, Brandon Bass, and Hedo Turkoglu—not a billboard.