Decision on Dwight Howard clearly belongs to the Orlando Magic

Mar 27, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) during a free throw in the game against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Indiana Pacers beat the Houston Rockets by the score of 104-101. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 27, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) during a free throw in the game against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Indiana Pacers beat the Houston Rockets by the score of 104-101. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports /

Reports continue to come out connecting Dwight Howard to the Orlando Magic. Seemingly the decision to sign him is fully the Orlando Magic’s call.

Dwight Howard wants to come back to the Orlando Magic — or, at least, he is more than willing to consider it and it might just be one of his desired landing spots in free agency. At this point, all the noise and various reports say enough that there is some fire behind this smoke and that the Magic are somehow involved with Dwight Howard and his free agency, even if unwittingly.

Like Freddy Krueger or Jason Vorhees, Dwight Howard will not go away.

Ever since Ric Bucher of Bleacher/Report reported Howard had sent “back channel” feelers to the Magic to gauge their interest, the storyline has been too good to pass up. Nostalgia — or rage and anger — has kicked in. And everyone seems to be connecting dots that may not quite connect.

The rumors keep popping up and popping up. So there must be something to them.

The latest came shortly after the Rockets season ended. Howard did not directly comment on his future plans, but certainly someone was with all the talk that seemed to go on.

That seems to be the common refrain. Dwight Howard is very interested in coming to Orlando. Continually the sources and reports seem to be telling his side of the story. The Magic are notoriously quiet. And so everyone lets their imaginations run wild.

The ball is clearly in Orlando’s court to make Howard a part of their free agent plans or to pass on the center.

And that is the most important thing to remember. The narrative is that Howard has a group of favorites. It does not mean the Magic’s interest is mutual.

Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel explained why succinctly:

"As I said during an episode of the Orlando Sentinel’s “Orlando Magic Now” webcast on April 7, I think it is highly unlikely that the Magic will have interest in signing Howard to a multi-year deal.During his Magic tenure, Howard excelled because he possessed otherworldly athleticism, rarely missed games due to injuries and played in a system tailored to his strengths.Anyone who watched Howard play recently for the Rockets should be able to see differences. His joy for the game and his intensity on defense appear sapped by the Rockets’ unwillingness to feed him the ball on offense."

Indeed there are many reasons to believe Howard is not anywhere near the same player. He averaged 13.7 points per game, the lowest since his rookie year. His offense looked stilted and even Kevin McHale commented that Howard looked like he was still laboring to to establish post position. His injury, as Robbins noted, had sapped a lot of his athleticism.

Even defensively Howard has regressed tremendously. His defensive win shares were up to 3.1 from 2.2 last year, the two lowest amounts in his career. He had a defensive box plus-minus of 1.8, meaning the Rockets were 1.8 points per 100 possessions better with Howard on the floor over an average player. That is the lowest amount since his first two seasons in the league.

This is not the same defensive player of the year award winner from his Orlando days. A reunion would not make it 2010 again.

Maybe it has something to do with motivation. Maybe it has something to do with health. Who knows what caused this rapid decline?

The price and the length of Howard’s contract will certainly be a big factor in where he ends up or whether the Magic or any team is willing to sign him. He is no longer a max player. He may not even be a $20 million per year player.

The Magic cannot and are not acting on anything yet.

Rob Hennigan has been notoriously closed with his free agent planning. He does not give much for opposing teams to hold onto even in the form of leaks to the media. Although there might have been one leak with a report the Magic are not considering Howard in free agency.

Now would not be the time to leak anything to the media anyway. He still has a NBA Draft night to prepare for to set the whole summer in motion.

The desperation that seems to be coming out from these reports is that Howard is looking for a suitable home. And this is not even getting into his worth.

Orlando Magic Daily has covered about every angle of a potential Howard signing. Fan opinion seems to be split right down the middle to accepting him back to expletives followed by the word “No.” Certainly Howard’s potential rim protection seems really valuable for a team looking for a better defensive identity. But it is also clear he is not the same player — price matters here.

The smart money is that it is silly to cross off any option at this point. The Magic need a lot of help in a lot of different areas and have to explore every option. Where Howard might have the Magic as one of his first choices, the Magic probably do not have Howard among theirs.

If Howard believes the Magic will bend over backwards for him, that is where he is likely mistaken. There is no sense that is true. Howard just might have to be patient and wait to see where the market falls for him.

Right now the noise is a whole lot of nothing. The Magic have their plan, Howard has his preferences.

Ultimately, Orlando has the final say on whether Howard is part of its team and future. It is their call and it feels like its priorities are elsewhere — although who really knows, the Magic are working behind closed doors.

The Magic would be smart to let things play out and not make any rash decisions. Perhaps this is simply their one-year insurance plan should other plans not pan out. The Magic need a plan and need to stick to it.

Next: Experience is priority No. 1 for Orlando Magic

It is not the time to overreact to rumors or anything like that. It is now just the time to sit, wait and stick to the plan. Whatever that might be.