Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 142

Dec 02

Friday’s Magic Word

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Paul gave New Orleans a hint last summer when he floated a trial balloon, basically trying to nudge the Hornets into dealing him. This time, Paul and his agent apparently aren’t wasting any time flying balloons, alerting the Hornets that he won’t sign an extension and they should get what they can for him now. The Magic are in the same place with Dwight Howard, except that Howard, through agent Dan Fegan, hasn’t declared his intentions — at least publicly. For all we know, though, the Magic might be trying to trade Howard right now. As we’ve written before, Howard needs to declare because the Magic will not go through the season gambling that he’ll return if he walks as a free agent. I’d have more respect for Howard if he did what, reportedly, Paul is doing. He owes them that.”
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel responds to the idea that the Orlando Magic could risk everything they have to acquire Chris Paul in a trade and pair him with Dwight Howard for a season.
  • Magic players are happy to be back in the gym.
  • Here’s the latest on Howard’s contract scenarios: “Plays the entire season in Orlando, opts out and ends up elsewhere (either by signing as a free agent or through a sign-and-trade): $80.5 million for 4 years. Gets traded in February, opts out, then re-signs with the team that acquired him: $110.8 million for 5 years.”
  • With the return of StatsCube, John Schuhmann of NBA.com breaks down the numbers and sheds light on the disaster that was Gilbert Arenas last season: “Of the 181 players who attempted at least 500 shots last season, only one (Jason Kidd) had a worse field goal percentage than Arenas, who connected on 36.6 percent of his shots. And that number is aided by the 39.4 percent that Arenas shot before he was traded. He made a putrid 34.4 percent of his shots with the Magic. Arenas shot poorly from both near and far. Of the 236 players who attempted at least 100 shots from the restricted area, he ranked 234th at 48.6 percent. And of the 167 players who attempted at least 100 3-pointers, he ranked 157th at 29.7 percent.”
  • Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: “My reading of the new rules is that Orlando and New Orleans can’t risk their stars playing this out and getting to free agency. If they do, there will be considerable angst and even more considerable risk that their stars will leave and they’ll get nothing in return. One more thing, while we’re on the subject: The Magic and Hornets have the benefit of a shortened season, which would make the short-term ramifications of a blow-it-up-and-start-over trade fairly fleeting. Plus, cap space in a better free-agent market next summer and a superb draft could speed the reloading process.”
  • Should the New York Knicks be pursuing Howard instead of Paul?
  • Mark your calendars: the Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder will be playing on Christmas Day.

Dec 02

3-on-3 roundtable: An uncertain future

Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Dwight this. Dwight that.

Needless to say, there’s been a lot of Dwight Howard talk already and the season hasn’t even started yet. Magic fans better get used to it because things are going to be like this for the foreseeable future until Howard decides on his future.

In the meantime, while everyone else is busy talking about Howard, there’s other topics to talk about and we at Magic Basketball feel it’s time to chime in on some of the more pressing issues surrounding the Orlando Magic. Not only do we offer our thoughts on Howard, of course, but we also speculate on the future of general manager Otis Smith and Gilbert Arenas.

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Fact or Fiction: Otis Smith will be the general manager of the Orlando Magic beyond the 2011-2012 season.

Nate Drexler: Fact. The fact that he will have the option to amnesty Gilbert Arenas, and thereby erasing the most glaring mistake he has ever made means he could once again be beloved. Gilbert was a step back, but I think Otis Smith is ready to bring in a heavy hitter to re-secure his position as general manager.

Danny Nowell: Fiction. I really think the only way Otis retains his seat is by pulling off a trade for one of the two superstar point guards soon to be on the market. If he swings a great deal for Dwight that involves a lot of picks, he could buy another year to see if he could rebuild the roster for a new era.

Eddy Rivera: Fiction. The Orlando Magic are in the position that they’re in because Smith made the calculated decision to overhaul a roster that was an elite team and championship contender. Twice. The question is whether or not the DeVos family will allow Smith to start fresh. Based on his track record, Smith doesn’t deserve the opportunity to do so.

What will it take for the Magic to realistically re-sign Dwight Howard to a contract extension?

Drexler: Once again, I look for the amnesty of Gilbert Arenas. Once you get rid of that contract, it gives you a ton of breathing room to acquire some major pieces. In all honesty, Dwight needs a semi-big-time-scoring-guard. If not, Dwight walks, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone. You simply can’t compete with the current lineup.

Nowell: I’m considering Dwight gone unless Chris Paul or Deron Williams come to town, which it seems would require a massive and creative series of deals at this point. I think Dwight wants to build himself into a personality and icon, and I think he (incorrectly) feels that to be all but impossible in Orlando.

Rivera: It’s too late (unless Smith somehow lands Chris Paul or Deron Williams in a trade). Right now, the Magic need to cut their losses and do whatever it takes to get the most value back in a Howard trade. The last thing the franchise needs is a repeat of 1996, where it took years for them to recover after Shaquille O’Neal left them with nothing.

Do you amnesty Gilbert Arenas right away or wait and see if he has anything left in the tank?

Drexler: For all the torture Hibachi has put Orlando through in the past, I think you have no choice but to amnesty him right away. Dumping his contract not only fixes on floor personnel issues, but potentially solves contract problems that could free up some funds and bring on some guys to keep Dwight around.

Nowell: Oh, man, I amnesty him quick. Like, real quick. The best case scenario for “something left in the tank” with Gilbert still means a combo guard who needs to learn his limitations, and since I believe the Magic are looking at a post-Dwight future, I think they also need to prize financial prudence.

Rivera: I would amnesty Arenas right away. Even if Smith wanted to wait and see what Arenas had to offer on the court, unless he magically reverts back to his superstar form, it’s hard to see him improving much from the player that he was last season. If that’s the case, Arenas would have little value on the trade market. So what’s the point of keeping Arenas?

Dec 02

The potential awkwardness of All-Star weekend

Photo by Noel Vasquez/Getty Images

Two summers ago I moved back to St. Louis where I had spent the first twenty something years of my life. To my surprise, the MLB All-Star Game was scheduled to be played at Busch Stadium. While it wasn’t the Busch Stadium that I had grown up going to, I felt an undeniable heartwarming anticipation about the game. It was a pride thing, to be sure. Fans from all across the country would get to come see my downtown, my stadium, stay at my hotels, dine in my restaurants, and see my All-Star, the prince himself, Albert Pujols.

The day of the game I took the MetroLink down to the stadium with a buddy of mine. We had no intention of going to the game because of the outrageous scalp rates, and we also had no idea just how captivating the festivities were going to be.

The city was alive. Streets filled with excited, freshly tanned fans in the July heat, walking eagerly from spot to spot, clad in the crispest and most expensive All-Star jerseys you have ever seen. Barbeque pits were blazing, tailgate parties were raging, and music was blasting as everyone came together to soak in the sheer brilliance of an All-Star weekend.

I’ll spare the boring details from our experience downtown and jump straight to the climax. As we wrapped around the backside of the stadium just minutes before the President threw out the first pitch, we stopped, engulfed by a crowd of thousands, as the starting lineups were introduced.

With just a glimpse of the crowd over the short left field barrier, we anxiously awaited the announcer’s introduction of our hero, Prince Albert. My friend looked at me, his arms crossed with a frustrated look on his face.

“This crowd is too loud,” he said. “We’re not going to hear when Albert gets called.”

I responded, “No, man. You’ll know when that happens.”

Seconds later, the city felt like it erupted. People were cheering like they had lost their minds. Hats flew in the air, and even the thousand folks outside the stadium were in complete pandemonium was Albert was introduced. This was our city, our stadium, our festivities, and our guy was the star of the show.

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Dec 02

Embracing uncertainty

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

There’s not a good way to introduce this season for the Magic, because you already know all the things that one might say. The elephant in the room has been trumpeting his trunk for three seasons now, and the second we heard that a new CBA was forthcoming, Orlando became one of the four or so franchises most under the microscope for the coming season.

It feels like Orlando can’t win. For years, despite having a perennial MVP candidate, one of the best and most innovative coaches around, and now the NBA’s best arena, Magic fans have felt like the team has been overlooked. And now that the team has the spotlight, the scrutiny is mostly about the roster’s shortcomings and the increasing probability that Dwight Howard will be plying his wares elsewhere next season.

Now check it, y’all: I have nothing new to say about Dwight Howard, and I may not for a long time. But it’s looking like a season of worry and tooth-gnashing for Orlando, and while I don’t want to trivialize how much is at stake for the franchise, I am here to say that we just ought not sweat it.

Post-lockout, I feel like a dude on the rebound after a bad breakup. I been burned. I learned a few things about love I hadn’t thought about before. (Disclosure: I am coming to you live and direct drinking a Manhattan and blaring Sam Cooke right now.) I just spent months watching the owners — men whose businesses I devote an outsize proportion of my time and resources to following — behave as if they simply did not care whether basketball happened. It’s not news that money makes the world and the league go ‘round, but what I’m saying is I’m having a hard time reinvesting in the league in the exact same way. Me and the NBA are going to go out a couple times, I’ll focus on the positives, and we’ll see during the playoffs if it will be love again.

I don’t mean to be saying I won’t follow or be invested in the league this year, I’m just determined to understand its goings-on within the proper frame of reference: as parts of a pure entertainment system, with little of the seriousness that would inspire real angst about where Dwight is going. I would like him on the Magic for his career, sure. I’d like it even better if he was kept on the Magic by means of a daring trade that brought another top-tier player to the Magic. And those things might happen.

But whereas last season I might’ve gotten annoyed with the trade speculation or the fact that countless observers who’ve been ignoring the Magic’s good features for years will now be talking about their shortcomings, this year I’m the prettiest girl at the prom. Every fun scenario for the future of the league involves the team we’ve been following for years, and while in the short term the Magic may get less competitive, it’s harder to imagine a scenario with so many rich possibilities.

One of the things that has driven me the craziest about the Magic the past few seasons — ever since the trade for Vince Carter, really — was the high-quality limbo in which the team has been floating. I believe pretty firmly that whatever the result of this season is, rooting for the Magic is going to be more fun that it was last year. Perhaps we’ll get to watch an extremely young team of high draft picks, perhaps we’ll see Dwight paired with a similarly talented player. What we almost certainly won’t be seeing, God willing, is a team of high-priced veterans whose skills we are already sure of and don’t fit any sort of team identity.

So instead of sweating the devil I know — that extremely frustrating, ill-conceived devil whose limitations I’m acutely aware of — I’m going spend the season embracing the devil I don’t.

Dec 02

Chris Paul and a Hail Mary pass

Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images

Via Marc Stein of ESPN.com:

A growing number of [NBA executives] starting to believe that Magic will indeed give strong consideration to doing Dwight deal before season starts.

Rather than getting knee-deep in opt-out, opt-in, sign-and-trade, or extend-and-trade scenarios, let’s get right to the point.

That’s what NBA executives believe. Until the front office for the Orlando Magic sit down, talk with Dwight Howard, and find out what he wants to do, no one knows what’s going to happen. That being said, if Howard makes his intentions known to the Magic that he’s leaving and not planning on re-signing with the team then yes, general manager Otis Smith should do everything in his power to trade the big fella as soon as possible. And with a number of teams interested in Howard, like the Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, New Jersey Nets, among others, Smith wouldn’t have a shortage of trade options at his disposal.

But, as Matt Moore of CBSSports.com astutely points out, before deciding on trading Howard or not, it would behoove Orlando not to try everything in their power to acquire Chris Paul.

The Magic have every reason to trade for Chris Paul without the promise of an extension. With no consideration of the extension, there’s nothing to hold up a deal. The Magic are facing the same cliff the Hornets are, staring down the barrell of Dwight Howard’s big-market shotgun. They are burdened with pieces which hold no value once Howard is traded. If Howard leaves, they will wind up with a huge amount of salary and no superstar, a terrible team with a supporting structure holding up nothing. They have two options. Win a championship this year or give up and trade Howard for nothing now. Even a move for Andrew Bogut as Berger has said will be discussed won’t keep them in title contention. That’s what Howard means to a team. That’s what an MVP candidate means.

It sounds like a crazy idea. Why would the Magic throw the kitchen sink at the New Orleans Hornets for Paul? Because Orlando has little to lose and everything to gain. The gain is that Paul and Howard stay. The risk is that Paul and Howard walk away and the Magic are left with nothing. But the thing is that if Orlando doesn’t acquire Paul, then Howard probably walks away anyway.

Sure, the Magic could trade Howard, acquire as many assets as possible, and start from scratch. However, if Howard is adamant that he must be traded to the Lakers, for example, the centerpiece in a deal would be Andrew Bynum and even though he’s talented with the potential to become even better, it’s a risk to rebuild around a player like him that has an injury history. The last thing Orlando needs to deal with is another Grant Hill situation. Granted, there would be more coming from the Lakers like other players and draft picks as well as possible salary relief. But how much more value could the Magic really squeeze out of Pau Gasol or Lamar Odom in a trade? Because there’s no point in either Gasol or Odom sticking around on a rebuilding team. And it’s safe to say that a first-round pick (or multiple first-rounders) from Los Angeles in the low-20s doesn’t sound too appealing.

It’s true that Orlando could play it safe, accumulate assets, and go from there. This isn’t the time to play it safe. This is the time to take a risk.

And the beauty of it all is, with Paul making his intentions clear that he wants to be with the New York Knicks (forcing the Hornets to trade him for next to nothing or let him sign as a free agent and get nothing in return), the Magic have something to offer. It’s true that Orlando doesn’t have a lot of assets but surely a trade package including Jameer Nelson, Brandon Bass, J.J. Redick, Ryan Anderson, a 2012 first round pick, and whatever else is something. It’s more than whatever New York can offer in a deal to New Orleans. If the Hornets were forced to choose between the Magic’s offer or the Knicks’ offer, it isn’t a hard decision (this idea goes out the window if Paul is willing to play somewhere else besides New York).

Orlando gets one more shot as an elite team and championship contender, while New Orleans accumulates better assets in their rebuilding efforts.

It’s no secret that Smith is a risk-taker.

As such, and as weird as it sounds, the Magic are in a unique position to take a risk and trade for Paul without a long-term commitment.

So why not try?

Dec 01

Thursday’s Magic Word

  • Head coach Stan Van Gundy on Dwight Howard’s future: “It certainly can be a distraction to guys, and it’s something that we will have to deal with. I’ll maybe address it more at media day. But I know this: It’s not something that I plan on talking about more than once. That’s going to be it. You know, look, I expect that Dwight will be the same. He’s a great player. He’s the guy we build our team around. We expect him to be great. I would expect that he’ll be even better than he was a year ago, and that he’ll go out and play basketball and play it hard every day. And then, when the time comes, he’ll make whatever decision is best for him, and that’s exactly the way it should go. But I don’t think it will distract him from playing.”
  • Brandon Bass is happy that basketball is back.
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “The NBA’s labor dispute isn’t over quite yet, but today is the day Orlando Magic players can return to the team’s practice facility at Amway Center. They may conduct voluntary workouts and train in the weight room under the supervision of strength and conditioning coach Joe Rogowski, athletic trainer Keon Weise and physical therapist Ed Manalo. Players can also get their physicals for the upcoming season out of the way. But team employees cannot do any on-court activities with players, which is a rule that J.J. Redick thinks is silly. And even if Stan Van Gundy, Otis Smith or any other basketball-operations staffers see a player, they cannot have anything more than quick conversations.”
  • President Alex Martins speaks on the end of the lockout.
  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com conducts a lengthy Q-and-A session with general manager Otis Smith. Give it a read.
  • Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post keeps it real: “At all rates, the Magic face few questions with regard to their own free agents. Orlando’s roster is plenty flawed, as we saw in its first-round playoff loss to the Atlanta Hawks, which had all the elegance and pleasantness of a fully-blown balloon’s erratic, flatulent flight when one suddenly lets the air out of its neck. However, the questions for Orlando don’t so much concern keeping good talent from leaving as much as how to add talent from the outside.”
  • Jim Buss, executive of the Los Angeles Lakers, is ready to trade Andrew Bynum “for the right deal.” In other words, the Lakers are prepared to offer Bynum in a deal for Howard.
  • A Howard rumor that really doesn’t make any sense.
  • Sandy Dover of SLAM ONLINE takes a closer look at Howard’s signature shoe — the adidas adiPower.
  • General manager Billy King of the New Jersey Nets claims he hasn’t had contact with the Magic in about a year. Yeah right.
  • Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: “The Clips have both the cap space to land Howard next summer and plenty of assets to entice Orlando, including Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu and a signed-and-traded DeAndre Jordan. Cap-space and asset-wise, few teams are in as good a shape as the Clippers over the next two years. If only they could use the amnesty provision on owner Donald Sterling.”
  • Zach Lowe of The Point Forward believes that Orlando should not hesitate to acquire Bynum in a trade if Howard is not coming back: “Bynum, through no fault of his own, has never been the first option in Los Angeles’ offense, and rarely even the second. Still, in those limited chances, he has put up an All-Star-level Player Efficiency Rating in each of the last four seasons, he’s one of the league’s best offensive rebounders and he’s a brute in the post. He has improved as a passer, and he could absolutely develop into the sort of post player you build an offense around. Heck, new Lakers coach Mike Brown sounds ready to move in that direction this season, if Bynum is still around. The Magic, stuck in what appears to be an awful situation, will be hard-pressed to find a better potential building block in any Howard trade.”
  • Do the Magic have the assets to acquire either Chris Paul or Deron Williams?
  • UPDATE: According to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, Paul has stated that he’d like to team up with Howard. Gee, where have I heard this before?

Dec 01

Dwight Howard and the Nets

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Via Marc Stein of ESPN.com:

The New Jersey Nets are prepared to offer a trade package featuring Brook Lopez and two future first-round picks to acquire Dwight Howard before the Orlando Magic center becomes a free agent in July 2012, according to sources close to the situation.

Sources told ESPN.com this week that, to sweeten the proposal, New Jersey would likewise offer to take back the contract of Magic forward Hedo Turkoglu, who has three seasons left on his contract worth just under $35 million. Absorbing Turkoglu’s remaining salary would become financially feasible for the Nets after the expected release of swingman Travis Outlaw through the amnesty clause that will be included in the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement and by including another smaller contract or two in the deal. […]

It’s been an open secret around the league that the Nets’ dream scenario is pairing Howard with Williams, after they followed up their failed pursuit of Carmelo Anthony last season by trading for Williams just before the February trade deadline. It remains to be seen whether Howard will regard the Nets as a prime destination on par with the New York Knicks, even after they move out of New Jersey, but sources say that Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov has long believed that teaming them up would convince both Team USA stars to commit their long-term future to the Brooklyn-bound Nets.

Most rival teams, however, doubt that the Magic can be convinced to start seriously considering trade scenarios for Howard this early. Orlando has thus far resisted outside interest in hopes of convincing the NBA’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year to stay in Central Florida. Two team executives monitoring the situation told ESPN.com on Tuesday night that they expect Orlando to take a patient approach with what could be Howard’s last year in town.

And so it begins.

Until Dwight Howard’s future is determined, the rumor mill is going to run rampant until the internet explodes.

For the New Jersey Nets, with Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov owning the team, with an impending move to the Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn in 2012, and with Deron Williams under contract (for the time being), the belief is that they have what it takes to lure Howard away from the Orlando Magic. Fueling the fire is that the Nets are usually among a list of teams that are rumored to be on Howard’s short list, and he’s openly stated in an interview — in Russia ironically enough — during the offseason that he wouldn’t mind playing with Williams. It would appear that all the pieces are there for a union to be formed between Howard and the Nets. However, New Jersey has a few obstacles.

First, Howard must have the desire to sign a long-term contract there.

Second, even if Howard isn’t necessarily too thrilled with the idea of committing to the Nets, in which he’ll need some convincing, general manager Billy King has to make sure his trade offer is best. Let’s expand on this point.

A package featuring Brook Lopez and two future first-round picks, presumably New Jersey’s first in 2012 and Houston’s first in 2012 (which is lottery protected), doesn’t sound too appealing. Why?

Lopez is a fringe All-Star caliber player, at best, that’s also a sub-par rebounder and defender for his size. Yes, Lopez is 22 years old and a talented scorer but he’s not a type of piece you build around. And if the Nets acquire Howard during the middle of the season (more on this in a bit), with Williams en tow, there’s a good chance their first-round pick falls outside the top 10 or even the lottery. Couple that with a lottery protected first-round pick from the Rockets and you have an underwhelming offer on your hands. Those two first-round picks, even in a loaded 2012 NBA Draft, probably net you role players. Combine that with a player like Lopez and you lock yourself into mediocrity.

Clearing cap space is a logical move but if the Magic trade Howard, which is the best course of action because the odds of him staying are low, they need to net as many assets as possible. Lopez, two mid-first rounders, and change isn’t good enough for a player of Howard’s caliber. No, Orlando isn’t going to win in any trade involving Howard but they can get a better deal. The problem is that time isn’t on the Magic’s side.

When it comes to Howard’s future, there’s many more layers to uncover.

Howard has numerous options if he opts-out: 1.) he can opt-out and re-sign with the Magic for five years with Bird rights, 2.) he can get traded by the deadline, opt-out, and re-sign with his new team for five years with Bird rights, 3.) he can get traded by the deadline, opt-out, and sign with a different team for four years with non-Bird rights, 4.) he can opt-out at the end of the season and execute a sign-and-trade with a different team for four years with non-Bird rights, or 5.) he can opt-out at the end of the season and sign with a different team for four years with non-Bird rights.

According to numerous reports, Howard is looking at either a 4-year, $80.5 million contract with 4.5 percent annual raises or 5-year, $110.8 million contract with 7.5 percent annual raises. If Howard chose to opt-in or execute an extend-and-trade, that’s a whole ‘nother ball game.

Consider this: if Howard is really hell-bent on playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, either general manager Otis Smith can acquiesce to his demands, get something in return for Howard, and call it a day. Or Smith can let Howard walk and risk having nothing to show for it. But then Howard can’t sign with the Lakers as a free agent because they don’t have any cap space. If this scenario doesn’t encapsulate the struggle there will be between Smith and Howard, nothing does.

Buckle up, folks. This is only just the beginning.

Dec 01

Dwight Howard and the Clippers

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Via D.J. Foster of ClipperBlog:

Get ready to give up one thing almost definitely: Chris Kaman and his 12.7 million dollar expiring contract. New Orleans or Orlando will want the cap room, and Kaman is the only current contract big enough to make the salaries match. DeAndre [Jordan] might get close, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Be ready to give up this as well: Minnesota’s 2012 unprotected first round pick. If Carmelo Anthony took a first round pick and two second rounders, you can pretty much kiss Minnesota’s pick goodbye in any blockbuster trade. I’ll have to double-check this, but the Clippers should be unable to trade their own 2013 first round pick due to the Stepien Rule. Since Boston holds the rights to the Clippers 2012 pick (top 10 protected), the Clippers shouldn’t be able to deal away their 2013 selection since that would make back-to-back years with traded first rounders. The soonest available first round pick of their own available for trade should be their 2014 pick. It’s also worth noting that the Clippers have traded (with strict stipulations) their second round picks until 2017. Long story short: That Minnesota pick would have to be gone.

Now for the Dwight Howard-to-Los Angeles rumors. And we’re not talking about the Lakers.

Chris Broussard of ESPN.com reported on Monday that the Los Angeles Clippers are willing to do whatever it takes to acquire Howard (and Chris Paul for that matter). The lone stipulation is that the Clippers won’t trade Blake Griffin to make room for Howard. And that makes sense, given that for Los Angeles to be an attractive destination for Howard, Griffin needs to be on the roster.

Casual fans may scoff at the idea that Howard would consider the Clippers, given that they are the red-headed stepchild of the Lakers and that, you know, they’re the Clippers. But let’s not get it twisted. Griffin is a game-changer. The problem is that Donald Sterling is the owner. Sterling is notorious for not only being cheap (caring more about earning a profit than winning) but also for allegedly being racist towards players.

As tantalizing a trade package involving a likely top-five pick in a loaded 2012 NBA Draft may be, not to mention acquiring a young blossoming player like Eric Gordon among other assets, it comes down to whether or not Howard would be willing to commit long-term to Los Angeles despite the Sterling factor. Sure, general manager Otis Smith could trade Howard to the Clippers regardless if he commits to them or not.

However, it would ultimately fall on Los Angeles to make the decision to risk trading for Howard without a guarantee he re-signs. If the Clippers decide to take that chance (like the Nets did with Deron Williams), then Smith would have a trade partner. More importantly, with news of New Jersey’s interest in Howard, Smith also would have leverage and the ability to drive up the price for the big fella in a trade. And needless to say, if the Orlando Magic make the choice to trade Howard away, ownership needs to make sure that they get as much in return as possible.

The last thing the franchise needs is a repeat of 1996.

Dec 01

The enigma that is Jameer Nelson

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

When I think of Jameer Nelson, I think of inconsistency. I think of a player that’s the very definition of that word.

Nelson has spent seven seasons in the NBA carving out a niche as a maddeningly inconsistent player that teases you with pure brilliance. Sometimes that brilliance lasts for one game. Or five games. Or 10 games. And when you see what Nelson is fully capable of, you get infatuated with his abilities.

At his best, Nelson is aggressive in looking for his own shot in pick-and-rolls while simultaneously fulfilling playmaking duties as a point guard. It’s a delicate balance that Nelson tries to find on a game-to-game basis and because equilibrium is remarkably hard to achieve (with Chris Paul serving as the model of consistency and excellence), it’s easy to see why he’s inconsistent. 

But at the same time, because Nelson — at this stage in his career — already knows what it takes to reach his potential, it boggles the mind that he continues to suffer with bouts of inconsistency. It’s been seven years! You’d imagine that Nelson would have figured it out by now. But Nelson hasn’t, and perhaps he never will.

Which makes looking back at Nelson’s All-Star season in 2009 a depressing exercise because that’s when you thought he had his “aha!” moment. That’s when you thought Nelson had truly figured it out.

First, let’s set the stage.

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Aug 18

Remembering Game 2 of the 2009 NBA Finals

Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Game 2 of the 2009 NBA Finals is hard to watch for many reasons. It was a loss, for one thing. But far more painful is the memory of a confident, exciting group of guys who did a lot of things right. I would not go so far as to call the Magic in 2009 a team of destiny, but I would certainly say that my excitement after 2009 was through the roof thinking about the potential the Magic had of stringing together multiple championship seasons.

Now, after a couple of years, we can only look back fondly (even at the losses) in 2009 and wonder where that team of destiny went.

Dwight was not quite ready 
He did so many things right. He attracted the double-team, got to the foul line (sometimes), passed the ball with precision (for the most part), and rebounded like it was going out of style. What was missing for me was that takeover hunger that Kobe Bryant had throughout the entire game and series. Yes, Dwight demanded the ball, but he did not command the paint. At times he struggled to make good decisions like going left instead of right, or spinning for the lob instead of trying to back Gasol down. You can’t point the finger at Dwight, but you can safely say that he was not ready to win a championship. This was not Shaq, nor was it Tim Duncan. He needed another year or two to develop (which he did). The sad thing is that 2009 team did not stay a 2009 team with him. They dwindled as his game got progressively better. It is one of the more painful memories Magic fans have. Dwight was great, he was even terrific, but he was not ready in 2009 to win a championship.

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