Today is the day Superman can reveal his true intentions.
At least that’s the way it should go sometime after 10 a.m. EST when Dwight Howard and Orlando Magic general manager Otis Smith are finally permitted to speak to each other for the first time since June 30.
We are now nine days removed from the tentative settlement to end the NBA lockout, and we’ve already been treated to two different versions of the Chris Paul story — he has made it known to the New Orleans Hornets that he wants to be traded to the New York Knicks, or he hasn’t. You choose who you want to believe.
We already know that Deron Williams is not going to sign an extension with the New Jersey Nets and will become an unrestricted free agent in July, but what we don’t know if he’ll ultimately end up closer to the Bay Area than Brooklyn.
As for Howard, many have long suspected that he aspires to play under brighter lights. And we all realize that the Los Angeles Lakers are the one team out there that has the most fitting goods to replace him by sending Andrew Bynum, Flotsam and Jetsam to Orlando.
What we do not have is a reading from Howard himself — although Howard’s admirers, such as Magic fan Evan Singer, are doing their best to elicit something of substance out of Howard on Twitter.
But the most substantive thing Howard has said when given 140 characters to answer is “Would y’all talk to me about something else(?)”
From Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “One thing is certain: All of the Magic’s next steps — how the team approaches free agency and the strategy it employs with the amnesty clause — revolve around what Howard says.
The perennial All-NBA center has said he hasn’t decided what he’ll do, but those public statements were made months ago. And Magic officials need to know what he’s thinking. In an interview with the Sentinel on Wednesday, Smith said the Magic want to retain Howard for years to come. But Smith also didn’t rule out trading Howard if it’s necessary to do so. And Smith hasn’t changed his stance.”
Robbins wrote those sentences two days before Howard’s former teammate, Matt Barnes, told reporters in Los Angeles that he has spoken with both Howard and Baron Davis (who is a candidate to be waived by the Cleveland Cavaliers through the amnesty provision), and both are angling for a change of address.
Here is a video of that Barnes interview posted by the Kamenetsky brothers of ESPNLosAngeles.com:
“Is it possible that Barnes was being only half-serious or that he was tweaking the same Orlando Magic officials who decided not to bring him back after he became a free agent in 2010?,” Robbins wrote on the Sentinel. “Yes, it’s definitely possible. (Barnes hasn’t yet returned a message I sent to him earlier today. Also note: I’ve given Howard multiple opportunities to discuss his long-term plans, and he’s declined to address those plans each time.) And is it possible that Howard really hasn’t decided on his future yet — that the Lakers are merely a second option if things don’t work out with the Magic? Yes, it’s possible. So be careful not to jump to any definitive conclusions when you watch this video. But also remember that Barnes isn’t hiding behind the shroud of anonymity.”
Someone who is hiding behind the shroud of anonymity is one of Howard’s “closest confidants” who spoke to sportscaster David Baumann of Central Florida News 13, telling him Howard’s preference is to stay in Orlando if the Magic are able to “hit a home run” and acquire Paul from New Orleans or Monta Ellis from the Golden State Warriors.
Baumann notes that he was the only journalist at Rollins College on Saturday as Howard worked out. Click here to view Baumann’s optimistic report for the Bright House Sports Network.
Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi weighed in with a little more pessimism after discussing the situation with ESPN broadcaster Jeff Van Gundy.
“The most outspoken, tell-it-like-it-is NBA commentator this side of Charles Barkley says the Magic must take the offensive and find out immediately what Dwight Howard’s future plans are. No dilly-dallying or attention-hounding, LeBron-sounding tapdancing until the end of the season. ‘What teams like Orlando (with Dwight Howard) and New Orleans (with Chris Paul) have learned from the LeBron thing is that you can’t let the players be in control of the situation,’ says Jeff Van Gundy, the ABC-ESPN analyst who happens to be the brother of the Magic’s coach. “… “You either have to get a player to declare that he’s all the way in with you or that he’s all the way out and wants to move on. You can’t let him straddle the fence the whole year and risk losing him for nothing. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, Otis Smith needs to invite Dwight Howard and his agent into his office ASAP, plug in the Tom Petty Greatest Hits CD and cue it up to, “I Need to Know.” … “If you think you’re gonna leave then you better say so!” The good news is it sounds like Smith plans on doing just that and asking Dwight for an answer. The bad news is that Magic fans might not like Dwight’s answer. Smith told Orlando Sentinel reporter Josh Robbins earlier this past week that he would not rule out trading Dwight, which is in stark contrast to what he said back in April when he told the Sentinel’s Brian Schmitz that trading Howard will never be an option. The cynic in me says this drastic change in Smith’s stance means the Magic see the handwriting on the wall and already have a decent idea Howard may leave. That would be sad, but don’t blame Howard, blame the NBA owners. They’re the ones who agreed to this new collective-bargaining agreement that gives the Magic no immediate help in retaining their franchise player.”
Dwight? Whatcha got to say?