Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 146

Dec 15

Thursday’s Magic Word

  • John Denton of “To those who witnessed the Orlando Magic’s scrimmage on Thursday, Dwight Howard was his usual dominant self. Only this time instead of using his considerable muscle, he instead flexed some finesse. Time and again, Howard showed off the growth in his game by anticipating double teams by stepping back and draining several jump shots. But no amount of good news from Howard on the court, it seems, can offset the fact that there’s been no movement in his stance of wanting a trade from the Magic. Orlando still has every intention of trying to retain their franchise center, but Howard said on Thursday that his desire to play elsewhere remains firm. […] Howard, who can opt out of his contract after this season and become an unrestricted free agent, requested a trade last week from the only franchise that he’s ever played for in seven NBA seasons. His agent, Dan Fegan, was given permission to negotiate potential deals with the New Jersey Nets, Los Angeles Lakers and the Dallas Mavericks – the three teams that Howard has said he would sign a long-term extension with.”
  • Head coach Stan Van Gundy reveals his mindset with regards to the Orlando Magic’s rotation. Earl Clark could have a bigger role this season.
  • The latest on the Dwight Howard trade saga.
  • Brett Pollakoff of ProBasketballTalk: “It’s unfortunate for Magic fans to hear, but it’s true nonetheless: The best thing for the franchise would be to trade Dwight Howard sooner rather than later, for the most assets it can get in the best possible package. Orlando’s current roster isn’t capable of getting past the second round of the playoffs, and the team doesn’t have many attractive assets of its own to bring in the level of talent it’s going to take to make Howard think it’s worth it to stay.”
  • Does Howard want to be a white knight? Or does he want to turn to the dark side?
  • Bill Simmons of Grantland: “Put it this way: If I’m Dwight Howard, I’m thinking about titles and titles only. I don’t care about money — that’s coming, regardless. I don’t care about weather — I have to live in whatever city for only eight months a year, and I’m traveling during that entire time, anyway. I don’t care about “building my brand” and all that crap — if I don’t start winning titles soon, my brand is going to be “the center who’s much better than every other center but can’t win a title.” I care only about playing in a big city, finding a team that doesn’t have to demolish itself to acquire me, finding one All-Star teammate who can make my life a little easier (the Duncan to my Robinson), and winning titles. Not title … titles. I want to come out of this decade with more rings than anyone else. I want to be remembered alongside Shaq, Moses and Hakeem, not Robinson and Ewing.”

Dec 15

Magic re-sign Earl Clark

Via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

Earl Clark has agreed to a two-year deal with the Orlando Magic, league source tells Y! Sports.

UPDATE: Good signing.

It’s been reported that Earl Clark desperately wanted to re-sign with the Orlando Magic, spurring a more lucrative offer from the Denver Nuggets to make it happen.

Onto the peripherals. Clark’s numbers with the Magic last season, admittedly, were not very good. Although Clark brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm onto the court when he played, he didn’t produce (a sub-10 PER will attest to that for example). On offense, if Clark wasn’t finishing at the rim, he struggled to put the ball in the basket everywhere else with limited range and a shaky jumpshot. Clark’s True Shooting percentage was 46.8 percent in 2011, which is nothing to sneeze at. Clark’s potential, though, is associated with his defense.

At 6-foot-10, Clark is diverse enough athletically to defend opposing small forwards and power forwards. That’s the intrigue with Clark because, let’s be frank, outside of Dwight Howard and maybe Glen Davis, the Magic are lacking for players that can effectively defend forwards. And head coach Stan Van Gundy raves about Clark’s defense, as he feels that will make him an impact player in the NBA. That is, if Clark is open to carving that niche out for himself in the league.

Amidst the Howard hoopla, Clark will be a player to keep an eye on. Van Gundy is a proven developer of young talent and it’ll be interesting to see if Clark makes any progress in his second year with Orlando. Typically players in their second season with Van Gundy do.

If he can improve on his offense and further develop on defense, Clark could find himself becoming a bigger factor in Van Gundy’s rotation.

Dec 15

Player to watch: Stephen Curry

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Magic Basketball previews the 2011-2012 NBA season with a look at the players we’re most excited to watch this year.

When Eddy asked me to think of a player I was most excited to watch, my mind immediately went to every player on the Thunder roster. But — curses! — Nate beat me to it with his killer piece on Tuesday on James Harden, the league’s pre-eminent beard.

I realized I’m tired of talking about Ryan Anderson, even though I’m really stoked for his season, and tired of hearing how excited everyone is for Ricky Rubio. And then I wanted to write about one of the players involved in these mega trade rumors, but I realized that those are being covered so exhaustively that even thinking the name Chris Paul triggers some sort of trauma-induced narcolepsyasdfjasfmcea.ddffll. See? Like that. It just happened.

In trying to think about who I was excited about this year, I was forced to stare into the new Twitter-created attention abyss, wherein everything about the NBA is so rapidly transmitted, commented upon and digested that anything exciting is ground into a mealy pulp of commentary within minutes. For those of you scoring metaphors at home, I just said that Twitter has turned the NBA into a chasm of boring oatmeal — everything in today’s news cycle happens so fast that you can’t be surprised by anything, and everything fresh about the league is so quickly overexposed that it becomes stale.

Even the rookies, for God’s sake: I already know how Rubio struggles with his shot, I already know about Derrick Williams’ problems as a “tweener” (there’s a word I would banish from English) and I know how Jan Vesely’s girlfriend kisses and what every basketball writer I follow thinks about that.

I realized I was struggling to dredge up excitement because I have a hard time imagining being surprised any more. And then, somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind, I thought: “Stephen Curry.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Dec 14

Wednesday’s Magic Word

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “For now, it appears that the Orlando Magic front office has decided there’s no reason to rush into trading Dwight Howard, because the same offers — and perhaps better ones — likely still will be available right up until the March 15 NBA trade deadline. And perhaps Howard’s thinking about his future will change by that time. But Smith also denied multiple reports that said Magic officials have told teams they are ending trade talks for their All-NBA center. […] Rumors swirled Wednesday that the Magic had been in serious talks with the New Jersey Nets for a three- or four-team trade in which the Magic would have traded Howard and sent away the contracts of Hedo Turkoglu and Chris Duhon. In return, the two best players the Magic would have received center were Brook Lopez from the Nets and small forward Gerald Wallace from the Portland Trail Blazers. Smith wouldn’t confirm or deny that he had those talks, but he did indicate that he’s in no rush to make a move.”
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel thinks the Orlando Magic should start Glen Davis at power forward alongside Dwight Howard.
  • Today at, Danny Nowell and I joined Henry Abbott, John Hollinger, and David Thorpe to discuss the possibility of Howard joining the New Jersey Nets.
  • Chris Palmer of ESPN Insider breaks down what a partnership between Howard and Kobe Bryant might look like in Los Angeles.
  • Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk on the latest news that the Magic won’t be trading Howard any time soon: “The Magic are trying to slow everything down. The process they can do that with, the rumor mill is another matter. In the end, if they can’t re-sign Howard to an extension (and that is not looking likely) they have to trade him or watch him walk for nothing, just like happened with Shaquille O’Neal. But the Magic have wanted to take their time with this from the start, this move fits in with that.”
  • John Brandon of Grantland speaking on behalf of Magic fans: “We’re prepared for Dwight Howard to leave. Whether in the next few days or at the trading deadline or after the season. We’d rather him stay, because he’s a stunning athlete with a beaming grin, and also because we drafted him, which for outdated reasons means something to us. He’s never swiped a board for anyone else. The mind-boggling alley-oops have always been ours. The humiliating swats, property of Orlando. But we’re emotionally prepared for him to leave. For one thing, we’ve been through this before with an even scarier big man who was part of a better Magic team. If training frontcourt talent is our role, we’re at peace with that. If the Magic’s niche is to draft physically unique big men with the first overall pick, train them for a few years until they possess a semblance of a back-to-the-basket game, and then ship them to a big city to win championships, so be it. And Orlando and its residents, being the good sports we are, will even get those big men some NBA Finals experience without letting them actually win a championship. We want them to still be hungry when they hop on a plane toward their cosmopolitan destiny.”
  • Trading Howard may just come down to a matter of timing.
  • NBA scribes discuss the possible fallout with Howard’s ongoing saga.
  • For now, Orlando will try to win with Howard en tow.
  • If you enjoy NBA drama, this offseason has been full of it already.
  • Who would the Magic rather have? Andrew Bynum or Brook Lopez? Let it be known that a writer from Nets Are Scorching penned this piece.
  • Orlando needs way more in return if they trade Howard. That’s the opinion of Zach Lowe of The Point Forward, in which he comments on the rumored three-team proposal between the Magic, New Jersey Nets, and Portland Trail Blazers: “This is obviously a work in progress, but even this refined proposal amounts to Lopez, some middling first-round picks and a salary dump for Orlando. Wallace is a very good player, but he’s 29 with a game built on speed and ferocity. The ferocity will last, and Wallace is a hard-working, smart player. It’s not as if he’ll fall of the NBA map in his early 30s. But giving long-term deals to speedy wing players at that age is generally risky, and the Magic, in this scenario, may well decide to just let Wallace walk when his contract expires after the 2012-13 season.”
  • Howard reportedly remains firm in his stance that he wants out of Orlando.

Dec 14

Dwight Howard sends a stern warning to the Magic

AP Photo/John Raoux

Via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

Howard has warned the Magic if they don’t move him by the March 15 trade deadline, they’ll lose him for nothing in free agency. Howard told the Magic again on Tuesday that he wanted a trade, a league source said.

“Dwight’s not a happy camper,” one league source told Y! Sports.

The Magic still prefer what the Lakers could offer in any possible future trade talks, with a possible package of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum more attractive on a pure talent basis. The Nets have been far more aggressive in the pursuit of Howard than the Lakers, who are usually methodical in trade discussions.

The Orlando Magic don’t have to do anything right now. The New Jersey Nets aren’t going anywhere and neither are the Los Angeles Lakers now that Chris Paul has been traded to the Clippers. If the Magic decide to trade Howard, their primary objective is to negotiate from a position of strength. And that strength will begin to grow as the trade deadline nears.

Now that the Lakers have struck out on Paul, it’s almost assured they’ll focus on Howard. Unless, you know, Los Angeles wants to try to compete in the Western Conference with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and filler. If the Lakers want Howard, they have to trade for him, which will almost assuredly create a bidding war between them and the Nets. Remember, New Jersey can’t strike out on Howard either because then they run the risk of losing Deron Williams.

Let the games begin.

Dec 14

Dwight Howard trade talks heating up

AP Photo/John Raoux

Via Marc Stein and Chad Ford of

The New Jersey Nets have entered into serious talks with the Orlando Magic on a multi-team trade scenario that would bring Dwight Howard to the Nets, according to sources close to the process.

Sources told that the most active proposal discussed by the teams would make Portland Trail Blazers swingman Gerald Wallace and Nets center Brook Lopez two of the main pieces Orlando would receive in exchange for Howard.

As part of such a trade, which could be expanded to include a fourth team, sources say Orlando also would shed the long-term contracts of Hedo Turkoglu and Chris Duhon — both would be absorbed by the Nets — while also potentially receiving future draft considerations.

Other players would have to be added to the deal to make the salary-cap math work, but sources said Portland would receive multiple first-round picks as part of the exchange for surrendering Wallace and facilitating the trade.

UPDATE: Let’s start with what we know.

The New Jersey Nets are willing to give up Brook Lopez and draft picks as well as absorb salary in exchange for Dwight Howard.

In this case, the Nets would be taking on the salaries of Hedo Turkoglu and Chris Duhon. According to Sham Sports, New Jersey would be relieving the Orlando Magic of roughly $14.5 million in 2012 and $15.5 million in 2013. In 2014, the final year of Turkoglu’s and Duhon’s contracts, the Nets wouldn’t be on the hook for the full value of their salaries. Turkoglu’s contract is only $6 million guaranteed, while Duhon’s is $1.5 million if waived on or before June 13, 2013.

And Lopez comes at a much cheaper cost than Howard, given that he remains on a rookie scale contract for the next two seasons.

Essentially, the Magic would be slashing payroll in a hurry.

The involvement of the Portland Trail Blazers is where things get really confusing really fast. In the proposed three-team trade, the Trail Blazers would be sending Gerald Wallace to Orlando alongside Brook Lopez. But what else would the Magic be receiving? Another draft pick? And from which team?

Chad Ford of reported that New Jersey was prepared to offer five first-round picks. FIVE. However, according to Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated, Portland was set to receive four of them. FOUR. Which means, in the flurry of things getting exchanged, Orlando would be getting one first-rounder in return. Again, there’s a number of reports out there and it was never made clear the exact compensation (Johan Petro or Jordan Farmar could be in the mix as well) that the Magic were going to get for Howard. But it looks like it’s Lopez, Wallace, a first-round pick, salary relief, and Petro or Farmar. That’s it?

Even if Orlando was getting multiple first-rounders alongside Lopez and Wallace, that’s it?

Look, if the Magic trade Howard, unless they’re getting LeBron James in return, they’re not going to get full value for him. As the saying goes, you never get full value back when you trade a superstar. You don’t. But Lopez, Wallace, salary relief, a first-round pick, and Petro or Farmar?


Dec 13

Tuesday’s Magic Word

  • Shannon J. Owens of the Orlando Sentinel: “Howard wants rings and like any true superstar he should pursue that. But what he shouldn’t do is turn this into an ugly break-up. Right or wrong, his public finger-pointing and accusations of incompetent management by Magic GM Otis Smith on Saturday made him appear less than the classy leader you’d expect from a franchise player. Surely, no one is more emotionally drained about these dragged out discussions concerning Howard’s future than Howard himself. But that doesn’t excuse the unprofessional rip job he gave Smith Saturday. It’s too easy to throw Smith under the bus for the Magic’s decline after a slew of unsuccessful trades – Gilbert Arenas topping the list – and forget he’s also the man capable of assembling an NBA championship bound team. I was fine with Howard questioning Smith’s trade decisions and his lack of involvement in those, an assertion Smith denies. But publicly calling out his seven-year relationship with Smith after the two didn’t speak for a couple days after Howard’s trade request was just childish.”
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “After practice ended, and the team huddled at midcourt, Davis gave the rookies a homework assignment. Davis told them to look up the definition of ‘family’ in the dictionary and be prepared to make a presentation to the team about the meaning of the word Wednesday. ‘It’s to basically to get it into everybody’s mind what ‘family’ means,’ Davis said. “We’ve got to start walking the way for the family atmosphere and trying to change the culture here and making sure that we’re there for each other.’ ”
  • Trade scenarios involving Dwight Howard.
  • Team chemistry could be a concern moving forward for the Orlando Magic while the uncertainty surrounding Howard’s future continues to linger in the background.
  • Kelly Dwyer, Dan Devine, and Eric Freeman of Ball Don’t Lie preview the 2011-2012 iteration of the Magic. A must-read, perhaps for this optimistic view from Dwyer: “Would I pick them to take it all? No. Would I like their chances in a first-round rematch with Atlanta, and Jason Collins? Yes, but just barely. Would I put money on six or seven other teams to win the ring before Orlando? Definitely. But if they keep Dwight, and he decides to earn what he’s going to be paid this particular season, this team has a chance. Such is the power of having a star. Orlando fans know it too damn well.”
  • Matt Moore of is skeptical of Howard’s sincerity in wanting to stay with Orlando for the long haul: ”Howard’s discussions of staying are a bit cruel, in a way. No one has believed Howard would stay in Orlando, not for two years. He’s had every opportunity to say so and he’s declined every time, instead leaning on the ‘I just want to win a title’ talk which is code for ‘Don’t blame me, blame the GM.’ ”
  • Another season preview of the Magic. This time from Ben Golliver of, who thinks Orlando could be the biggest surprise in the Southeast Division this season. From a rebuilding team to a championship contender, the possibilities are endless.
  • conducts a 5-on-5 roundtable discussion and talk about Howard’s future.
  • Chris Broussard of “There are only four teams that Howard would sign a long-term contract with, according to a source close to the situation — the Magic, New Jersey Nets, Dallas Mavericks or Los Angeles Lakers. That severely limits the trade possibilities for Orlando, which has said it will not rule out trading Howard to any of the league’s 29 other teams. Without a long-term commitment from Howard, no club is likely to put an enticing offer on the table. Howard’s stance essentially relegates the Magic, whose ideal scenario is to re-sign Howard, to trade talks only with the Nets, Mavericks and Lakers. There has been speculation that the Chicago Bulls might be a possible destination for Howard because the Bulls offer a big-city environment, a superstar in Derrick Rose, and plenty of talent to send back to Orlando. But Howard’s refusal to sign there ends that possibility. While Orlando will field offers for its All-Star center, it also will take its time in an attempt to rebuild its relationship with Howard and improve the strength of its team.”
  • Why doesn’t Howard want to join Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls? I can answer this question. Yes, Howard wants to win. Yes, Howard wouldn’t mind playing in a bigger market. But at the end of the day, Howard wants to be the franchise centerpiece wherever he goes. That would be the case if Howard stayed with the Magic or left for the Nets. If Howard went to the Lakers or Mavericks, he could transition both franchises into new eras as Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki begin to see their skills erode and roles diminish as they continue to get older. In Chicago, where Derrick Rose owns the franchise and the city, Howard would be forced to play second-fiddle and that’s not something he wants to do — he wants to be the focus no matter what. Howard’s preference to play in warm weather is another reason but that isn’t a deal-breaker for him (see Brooklyn).

Dec 13

Player to watch: James Harden

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Magic Basketball previews the 2011-2012 NBA season with a look at the players we’re most excited to watch this year.

My love for LeBron James has not gone undocumented. You can argue with me, hate me, judge me, or even discredit me. I stand firmly on my convictions that he is the best player in the game. But that’s not why I am writing today, nor is it the sole reason I live and breath NBA basketball.

The very same way that LeBron James represents my passion for the NBA, and really the game of basketball, James Harden represents all that there is to look forward to in the future of the league.

Whoa, that is a huge jump. Sit tight. I’ll explain what I mean.

There are basically a handful of super stars in the league that we are forced, either because of regional convictions or otherwise, to pick from and stand behind. Kobe guys are convinced that he’s the most clutch and greatest player to play. Dwight fans think that no one understands (like they do) the importance of defense, blocked shots, and presence. LeBron guys, while usually afraid to admit their love, are still convinced that he’s going to win five to seven championships pretty soon. I fall in that camp, by the way. Durant scores a lot, big time fantasy guy, we get it. But what goes unmentioned a lot of times are the rising stars that still grip us and represent the part of us that roots for the underdog (by that I mean undersized, underskilled, and under-everything). And really forget rooting for the underdog. How about rooting for a situation where we get to experience the growth, development, and arrival of a star.

I experienced something awesome last June. Most of the people I see every day here in Chattanooga know very little about the NBA (but goodness they will talk SEC football like it’s their job). They ask me a lot of dated questions about LeBron’s decision, and cite tired arguments about Kobe or LeBron being better — but their knowledge doesn’t go much farther than that.

Side note: I told a few guys at work this week that Chris Paul got traded to the Lakers and received more than three blank stares followed by a confused, “who?”

But something happened when the playoffs started. For many reasons, but primarily the story line revolving around LeBron and the Heat, people started giving the game a closer look. What I mean is the NBA is slightly less a wretched league infested by selfish, gutless prima donnas who want to “go one-on-one with anyone.” Yes, that is how most southern boys view the NBA. My geographic position in Chattanooga has typically left me sheepishly asking the bartender to change the channel from an SEC baseball game to an NBA game.

But last year during the playoffs, bars came alive with (perhaps) bandwagon Grizzlies fans rooting their hearts out for the likes of Marc Gasol, O.J. Mayo, and Zach Randolph. What? It was such a weird sight, but I realized that the draw for most of these guys was a.) the fact that Memphis was an underdog, b.) the guys on the team who were getting national attention for their unprecedented performances (Randolph, specifically), and c.) how identifiable Memphis was for these guys. It’s a regional thing.

It’s a good thing to access the game through superstars, but the game becomes addictive when you realize that guys like Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol (and James Harden — yes, I’m getting to him) can hang in a 48-minute game with, well, anyone.

The point here is that superstars doing superstar things have given new interest in the league that didn’t exist years ago, they get you to turn on your TV, or in my case, to revitalize your interest in the game of basketball. But it’s the rising stars that keep you coming back. They give you that hope that you’re witnessing something that will be talked about in years to come.

All that said, James Harden is by far and away the most exciting non-superstar to watch this year, and here’s why.

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Dec 12

Monday’s Magic Word

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Dwight Howard, as he has the power to do, instantly turned what promised to be an awkward, dismal media day Monday for the Magic into an upbeat session with three words: I might stay. WHAT!!!!!!!??????? Frustrated by the team’s direction, Howard not only has asked the Magic for a trade but he criticized GM Otis Smith for not acting on some of his ideas to improve the team. But Monday, Howard said, “if you’re willing to do what it takes to win, then, you know, you’ve got me.” Howard was either genuine or it was a PR ploy to limit the damage as the Magic try to deal him while beginning a new season. Howard might have also changed his tone — but maybe not his tune — rather than be portrayed as a bad guy in this drama.”
  • CEO Alex Martins thinks the Orlando Magic will be able to keep Howard.
  • The Los Angeles Lakers have the assets to acquire Howard.
  • TNT analyst Steve Kerr chimes in on the Magic’s conundrum with Howard: “I think the Magic are fortunate that there are some desirable assets on some of the teams that he’s mentioned, and I think the best case for Orlando is the Lakers. And it’s ironic because of what happened with Shaq years ago, but it doesn’t matter.”
  • John Denton of “On Day 4 of the ever-changing, seemingly never-ending Dwight Howard saga, there was this from the superstar center: Finally some wiggle that just might keep him a Magic uniform after all. After encouraging talks with new Magic CEO Alex Martins and new teammate Glen “Big Baby’’ Davis, Howard said he could see himself in Orlando long term if some changes can be made to how the roster is constructed. Howard wasn’t specific, of course, but he was likely referring to his Sunday night rant where he fumed about not having as much input into personnel as he should have as the Magic’s franchise player.”
  • Brian Windhorst of provides an in-depth look at Howard’s reasonings for demanding a trade from the Orlando Magic to another team.
  • Matt Moore of ProBasketballTalk: “It’s one thing for stars to be consulted on deals, to be made aware of decisions. But there’s a big gap between that and having influence. Howard has his own agenda, he’s always had his own agenda, and it involves commercial appeal. And that’s great! He’s a genuinely funny, lovable guy. But don’t lie to the fans, don’t lie to the media, and don’t lie to yourself. Melo played it cold, because that’s what the situation required. Howard trying to play the victim is like someone being upset they got a paper cut while causing a car wreck. If you’re going to blow the tracks, don’t blame the conductor.”
  • It’s easy to be skeptical of Howard’s sudden change in his trade demand.
  • This year’s media day for the Magic has a whole lot of intrigue.
  • If Howard were traded to the New Jersey Nets, how would he help them defensively? David Thorpe of ESPN Insider analyzes Howard’s possible impact.

Dec 12

Dwight Howard is open to staying with Magic

AP Photo/John Raoux

Via Brian Windhorst of

The Magic plan to try to handle Dwight Howard’s recent trade demand in a similar fashion to how the Lakers dealt with Kobe Bryant’s high-profile demand in 2007.

Orlando will field offers for their All-Star center but they also will take their time in an attempt to rebuild their relationship and improve the strength of their team.

As part of that strategy, sources told, the Magic currently do not plan to trade Howard.

New Magic CEO Alex Martins met with Howard when he arrived at Amway Center Monday morning. Afterward Howard sounded like he’d softened on the possibility of staying in Orlando as long as there are some changes.

“I love this city, there is no place I’d rather be but Orlando,” Howard said. “I just want to make sure we have the right things here so we can win a championship. I’m all about change. If you’re willing to change and you’re willing to do what it takes to win then, you know, you got me.”

One of the “changes” Howard wants, sources told’s Marc Stein, is the signing of guard Chauncey Billups.

Should Billups clear waivers Monday at 6 p.m., after being released Friday by the New York Knicks through the amnesty clause in the league’s new labor agreement, sources say Howard will lobby Billups to spurn offers from the Miami Heat and sign with the Magic instead to give them a steady veteran hand.

It’s no secret that Dwight Howard is conflicted right now. That much is certain, given that he’s been flip-flopping on staying or leaving recently. But again, the question is whether or not the Orlando Magic can do enough to compel Howard to stay?

Howard has made it abundantly clear that he loves the city of Orlando and wants to remain in a Magic uniform. However, Howard wants to win and needs help doing so. As such, it’s been reported that Howard wants Chauncey Billups to sign with the Magic if he’s able to clear waivers.

Despite turning 35 years old in September, Chauncey Billups — recently waived by the New York Knicks using the amnesty provision — still performed at a borderline All-Star level last season in his combined stints with the Denver Nuggets and the Knicks. Billups’ defense is nowhere near what it once was when he was a member of the Detroit Pistons but Howard can mask anyone’s deficiencies defensively so that’s a minor concern.

What makes Billups an appealing fit is that he’s precisely the middle-usage, high-efficiency type of player the Magic need on offense. Howard is going to be the center of the universe when it comes to what Orlando does offensively, but Billups can flank him with support in an efficient manner. That’s important. Likewise, Billups’ shot-creating abilities may not be dynamic but they’re effective, and he still gets to the free-throw line plenty of times (averaged 6.5 free-throw attempts per game in 2011) even though he’s gotten older as a player. Billups’ ability to execute pick-and-rolls also is a desirable trait, given that head coach Stan Van Gundy relies on that play type a lot in the Magic’s offense. And lastly, Billups is one of the active leaders in free-throw shooting percentage. Orlando is a team that’s always struggled at the free-throw line with Howard on the roster, so to have one of the best free-throw shooters in the NBA certainly doesn’t hurt.

But most importantly, the Magic would be acquiring Billups for nothing. Orlando isn’t exactly overflowing with assets at the moment, so for general manager Otis Smith to have the opportunity to acquire Billups without having to give up anything in return makes this a no-brainer decision. It all comes down to whether or not Billups clears waivers, and if Howard can do enough convincing to get him to sign with the Magic.

If, and this is a major ‘if’ at this point, Orlando is able to sign Billups as a free agent, he should be the starting point guard. Yes, that means that Jameer Nelson would come off the bench as Billups’ back-up or he could even be traded if the Magic feel they need to continue amassing more talent. Even though Nelson might be a little overpaid (his contract is $7.8 million this season), he’s a movable piece. Again, none of this matters if Billups doesn’t clear waivers or Howard is unable to lure him to sign with Orlando. However, it’s certainly a debate that will rage on with Magic fans if it ever gets to that point.

UPDATE: The Los Angeles Clippers have claimed Billups off amnesty waivers.

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