Time and again, I have come back to one key point: The fate of Howard, for this season anyway, rests in the hands of 85-year-old owner Magic owner Rich DeVos.
I am not 85, but I would imagine that when you are 85, you know the clock is ticking. You are not interested in making trades that will have you competing for a championship by the time you are pushing 90.
DeVos made a surprise appearance in the Magic locker room tonight before their game against the Miami Heat, and he came right out and said what I believed he was thinking: He does not want to trade the best center in the NBA.
“I don’t want to trade him,” DeVos declared to reporters.
“You never give up,” DeVos said of the negotiations. “We’ve got a great talent, a great young man. He’s got to look at his options (and) what’s best for him and I have to tell him what I think is best for him. I’m selfish.”
ESPN.com’s Tom Haberstroh reported that Howard did not acknowledge the team owner while the two were together in the locker room.
I had the pleasure of meeting DeVos when the Orlando Magic made it to the NBA Finals a couple years ago. They had just lost the deciding game to the Lakers, DeVos was surrounded by family members, and he took consolation in the fact that the Magic had made it as far as they had.
But the franchise remains without a championship, and keeping Howard — even with the risk of losing him with nothing in return in unrestricted free agency next summer, might represent DeVos’ last realistic chance of being able to compete for that elusive title.
“We love him, and he respects us, so we talk,” DeVos said, according to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. ”When you’ve lived as long I’ve lived, you see things from a bigger lens and you try to share that with the young guys coming up, including being patient.”
DeVos said he has tried to tell Howard that in a new city, he might never match the bond with that team’s fan base that he currently has with Magic fans.
“Listen to the fans tonight, cheering,” DeVos said. “He’s respected. You have to move in life, but the loyalty you develop in a community is always remembered. But if you leave, you don’t pick it up in the next town. It’s not an add-on, you know, because you lose what you had. Maybe you gain some new [loyalty], but maybe you don’t. Maybe the net gain isn’t as good you think. We just talk about stuff.”
Whn talks with the New Jersey Nets during the preseason had all but ended, Howard questioned whether the front office has surrounded him with enough talent.
“We talk about all that,” DeVos said. “We want to win, too. We all want to win, OK? I don’t think he tells you anything he doesn’t tell me. You can’t change anything until he says he’s going to stay. Then you can do a lot of things.”