There is no telling if the Dwight Howard drama would be playing out the way it is if it were not for the Carmelo Anthony trade drama that occurred throughout last season and the LeBron James Decision last summer. Those two events seemingly completely changed the process of free agency and the leverage players have. It also changed what players want.
The so-called super team is the goal for many now as they try to compete with the work the Heat have done.
The Knicks assembled their core in All Stars Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, both acquired in the past year through free agency and trade. The Heat obviously have their trio. And then there is the question of what super group Dwight Howard will eventually form. Will he join Deron Williams somewhere or will he go to Los Angeles to join forces with Kobe Bryant.
Certainly, it has become clear Howard is not enough by himself to win a championship. He needs at least a perimeter player playing at an All-Star level to get the team to the elite level. He had that in Hedo Turkoglu in 2009 and he had that in Jameer Nelson for the postseason in 2010. In 2011, he did not have that. And he does not seem to have a consistent all-star threat alongside him in Orlando this year.
And that spawned the supposed list. The list that Dwight Howard gave Otis Smith with suggestions of players he would like to see Orlando try to acquire. We may never know who exactly was on that list at various times. And we will never know whether the Magic had serious conversations to acquire anybody on that list.
There were a few names that leaked out to the press — Chris Paul, Josh Smith, Monta Ellis, Andre Iguodala, Stephen Jackson and Glen Davis were among the notable names Howard supposedly wanted on the team at various times. The Magic have already acquiRed Davis in a lateral move that sent Brandon Bass out of town. And Orlando had an opportunity, reportedly, to acquire Chris Paul but the asking price was too high at the time and the future seemed a lot more certain.
You have to remember where Orlando was following 2009 and the Finals trip.
The Magic felt the time was ripe to strike to win a championship after that trip to the Finals. Hedo Turkoglu‘s contract was expiring and was on the wrong side of 30. He was definitely at his peak, or falling off it. Orlando boldly went after a championship in acquiring Vince Carter (and Ryan Anderson) and in signing signing Brandon Bass and then in re-signing Marcin Gortat. This was a team built for an immediate championship and it nearly got there.
The following year, when Chris Paul reportedly went on the market, the rumored deal involved also taking on Emeka Okafor. With a team that was two wins removed from back-to-back Finals trips, there did not seem a reason to make another major change to the roster. Not when the goal was so close.
Nobody saw the team falling off the cliff the way it did — the Quentin Richardson and Chris Duhon signings did not pan out immediately, Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter suddenly looked old and the team felt off especially after the team’s West Coast road trip in December was an empty 1-3. The Magic used their trade assets (Marcin Gortat and Vince Carter most notably) to make the Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Gilbert Arenas deals.
Hindsight is 20/20 and taking on Emeka Okafor and his overpriced contract for Chris Paul looks much more worth it now than it did in the summer of 2010. Those mistakes of inaction or bad foresight are not going to be healthy to look back upon.
What is clear from the numerous ties the Magic have had to just about every star player that hits the market — and every star player that continues to hit the market — is that Dwight Howard wants to be paired with another star player. Not only that, we have seen that Howard needs just a marginal all star to make the team he is on a true contender. It is amazing how he single-handedly can take a below-average Magic team and turn them into a 50-win squad.
Howard probably wants a little bit less of the burden than he has in Orlando right now and in the last few years. The Magic have asked Howard to do a lot and have not provided him much offensive support — just the balanced attack from above average players, but not superstar players. Any player would want the kind of consistent support that a Kobe Bryant or a Deron Williams might add. Anybody would want that.
The unfortunate part for Orlando is that it is not going to be able to put together the kind of package to get one of the players Howard really wants off his list.
Rumors will certainly start up again about Monta Ellis and Stephen Jackson and maybe even Josh Smith as Orlando desperately tries to hold on to Dwight Howard. Jackson is searching for a two-year contract extension which Charlotte was unwilling to give him and Milwaukee seems unwilling to give him. And he is dealing with some back issues, those tend not to go away in a 32-year-old. Ellis is facing some legal issues and Rich DeVos has never been fond of taking on players with checkered legal pasts.
There is no perfect answer or cure to solve this problem. And certainly, Orlando is searching the bargain bin of sorts to get the star player they want to pair with Dwight Howard. They did not have the assets to acquire Chris Paul. Likely they do not have the assets to get the kind of player that is both on the list and would be enough to convince Howard to stay.
The list was a suggestion at one point. Maybe it was a list of players Orlando could have realistically gone after and acquired. Now, it feels more of as a pretense. Howard can point to it and say, the moves the team made failed and there were other players out there that would have done the trick.
One thing is clear, Howard wants another All Star to play with and ease his burden.