As expected, Orlando did not pull off any trades at Thursday’s deadline. That does not mean Orlando is done making moves as the team is patiently awaiting for some players to accept buyouts with their respective teams and to enter the signing market. But it was still a somewhat disappointing moment for a good number of Magic fans frustrated over Wednesday’s loss to Sacramento.
The Magic may have silenced some of that doubt with a dominant defensive performance Friday night against the Thunder, showing once again there is some greatness in this team… even if it does not come out every night. Howard was an absolute leader in that game and led both by his words and by his actions.
Still, that will not quiet the concerns that surround this team. Even though Howard famously said he is not thinking about 2012 and anyone that does have their focus on that summer is looking at the wrong year, fans cannot help but worry. His goal remains to win a title in 2011, but for how much longer can Orlando feel certain he will stay?
The media is not going to let this issue go away despite Howard’s pleadings. And there are a good number of fans who felt letting the trade deadline pass without making a major move is another item packed into Dwight Howard’s suitcase.
The fact is, Orlando is hampered by the contracts on its roster right now. Hedo Turkoglu and Gilbert Arenas are both on long-term deals and most would argue they are getting slightly overpaid (that adverb is being kind). The Magic don’t have a lot of youth to move — especially considering how important JJ Redick and Brandon Bass are to this team right now — and don’t have a lot of expiring contracts either — Jason Richardson was involved in the most rumors but he ultimately stayed and may be in discussions with Otis Smith for an extension.
Collective bargaining agreement aside, this is likely going to be the same problem Orlando will have next year. As much as Magic fans want to see another superstar paired iwth Howard soon, it is more likely to be a rejuvenated Gilbert Arenas than Chris Paul at this point.
Of course Otis Smith has worked his magic before and pulled a rabbit out of his hat. He has had a pretty bad year this year, missing on the signings of Chris Duhon and Quentin Richardson over the summer and seeing his major trade fail to pan out as planned.
What the team does know moving forward is that it does not want Howard’s situation to turn into a Carmelo Anthony situation. I doubt Howard would let it, he is not one to let these behind-the-scenes issues get out into the press (at least not until they are at a boiling point). Howard has always been a team player. Smith too is someone who is going to play things close to the chest until a move is about to be made.
For the immediate future, Orlando is going to play with the team it has. Otis Smith said after the deadline: “The team we have, I like. Our problem at this point has nothing to do with not having a backup center. That’s not our issue right now.”
We saw in Friday’s game just how good that team can be when things are clicking.
This summer will be another story. Depending on the new collective bargaining agreement, the Magic might have to be a little more active in rebuilding itself into a championship team … or a team preparing to lose its superstar.