Orlando as to hold onto to Howard, the NBA most dominant center, as long as possible, which means beyond Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline. You only send Howard packing for a blockbuster trade proposal. If there’s no blockbuster trade proposal, keep Howard and re-evaluate things at the end of the year. Period.
It should be mentioned that Howard, who can’t keep his mouth shut about places he’d like to play other than Orlando, now has the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers on his preferred teams list, joining New Jersey,Dallas and the Lakers. That’s according to SI.com.
Still, you can’t trade Howard for a decent deal. Ask Denver how that feels. The Nuggets got decent compensation for Carmelo Anthony, and they’re hovering around the sixth playoff spot in the West. That’s decent, not great.
You only trade Howard for a great deal. And if the great deal doesn’t come you focus all of your energy on surrounding Howard with talent, which is what Orlando is trying to do.
Anything can happen to make Howard want to stay in O-town. As you know, Howard can be a free agent at season’s end. And, yeah, it seems at this point Howard will leave. It seems as though he’d like to try a different city and a different organization. Orlando can be a small town to a superstar in his 20s.
But Smith and the Magic crew have stayed in the fight, and that’s good. They’re to be commended. The first rule of this situation is don’t eliminate yourself.
Look at it this way: As long as Orlando has Howard, it can do things to keep him, or things can happen that make him decide to stay. If you let him go, obviously you have no chance of keeping him. Ask New Orleans how that feels with Chris Paul.
For now, Orlando is better off gambling Howard will stay. After all, the Magic can pay him about $28 million more than any other team. The big risk is that he leaves in the off-season for absolutely no compensation. But that’s highly doubtful, and worth the risk.
Plus, Howard is a helluva recruiting tool to get players to join the Magic. You dangle him out there and free agents are intrigued. Some are downright fired up. If you’re a point guard, you’d love to have Howard for pick-and-roll plays. If you’re a perimeter defender you’d love to have a human eraser such as Howard at the rim. That allows you to gamble for steals. Howard has your back.
If you’re Orlando, you keep Howard until the last minute. You try to build around him. You try to recruit with him. You do everything possible to keep one of the game’s truly dominant players. It appears that might happen. But it didn’t look that way last month.
About three weeks ago Orlando visited Miami, and before the game Magic coach Stan Van Gundy was opining on topics ranging from visiting his daughter at the University of Miami to free agency.
I have a theory on free agency, that it’s not so much big market vs. small market, rather it’s having a superstar to use as a recruiting tool vs. having no superstar to use as a recruiting tool. I bounced that theory off Van Gundy.
“It didn’t work for us,” he said dryly.
Well, the game isn’t over.
Hey, San Antonio, not exactly a glamour location, never had trouble recruiting to add its core of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. It got players such as Robert Horry and Bruce Bowen.
Oklahoma City, another place that’s not exactly a NBA hotbed of social activity, probably won’t have problems recruiting players to join Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and crew.
Minnesota, which signed forward Kevin Love to a four-year extension, is hoping the same holds true for its relatively far-flung and frigid outpost of Minneapolis. Hey, it worked well for Kevin Garnett for many years. It seemed Latrell Sprewell, Sam Cassell and Wally Szczerbiak didn’t mind living in Minnesota when the Timberwolves had talent.
Orlando is doing the right thing. As long as Howard in a Magic uniform there’s a chance they can keep him. Once he changes uniforms, you have no chance at all.
Chris Perkins is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops.com, covering the NBA and the Miami Heat. His columns regularly appear every Tuesday. Follow him on Twitter.