Dwight Howard wants out of Orlando, the events of yesterday notwithstanding, a source close to Howard tells SheridanHoops.com
On the day coach Stan Van Gandy and general manager Otis Smith lost their jobs with the Magic, a source who has spoken with Howard recently said the All-Star center desperately wants to be traded prior to the start of next season.
And although the Brooklyn Nets are still considered the frontrunner, “it is not going to be a one-horse race,” the source said, listing the Mavericks, Knicks and — to a lesser degree — the Clippers and Lakers as among the destinations that would appeal to Howard.
When the news first broke Monday that Van Gundy had been fired and Smith had agreed to leave, the knee-jerk reaction was to assume that Howard had won the power struggle, and the Magic would now empower him to have a say in who the new hires would be — provided he agreed to sign a contract extension and commit to the Magic for the long term.
But in fact, the source said, Howard wants out of Orlando more than he ever did before in order to start a new chapter of his career. And it is well-known throughout the league that the Magic do not want to endure another soap opera season like the one they just experienced.
Orlando team executives are expected to meet soon with Howard as he recovers from the back surgery he underwent last month in California. If Howard tells them he wants out, they are expected to try to accomodate him and deal him to the highest bidder.
One piece of the puzzle that could influence Howard’s landing spot is whether a team acquiring Howard would be willing to take on the contract of Hedo Turkoglu, who is due to make $23.6 million over the next two seasons. The combined salaries of Howard and Turkoglu will be $30.6 million next season, and few teams will have the cap room or the assets to do a trade in which the salaries match.
One scenario that could improve the Nets’ chances to acquire Howard is if they win the draft lottery and get one of the top three choices in this June’s draft, which then could be bundled in a deal for Howard. (If the pick is No. 4 or lower, it goes to the Portland Trail Blazers as payment for the Nets’ acquisition of Gerald Wallace at the trading deadline.)
Wallace has a player option for next season that he must exercise by mid-June , and the Nets’ other marquee player — Deron Williams — plans to opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent, with the Mavericks believing they have a shot at convincing him to return to his hometown. But Williams’ future in Brooklyn would be solidified if the Nets could find a way to make a deal for Howard, who they have been trying to acquire since training camp last December.
Whatever the future may hold, Howard does not want his to be headquartered in Orlando, the source insisted.
“These are the days you dread in this business, but we feel it’s time for new leadership and new voices,” Magic CEO Alex Martins said in a statement.
Van Gundy had four straight 50-win seasons before going 37-29 this season, when he dealt with Howard’s frequent changes of heart regarding his future with the Magic. Late in the season, Van Gundy revealed that he knew that Howard had asked for him to be removed as head coach.
On the day of the trade deadline, Howard agreed not to opt out of his contract for next season — but he has since given no indication he is willing to ink a multi-year contract extension that the Magic would gladly give him.
Howard came out of the lockout expecting to be traded to New Jersey, but the Magic pulled out of the trade talks late in training camp, Howard spent an uneasy season in Orlando before being sidelined late in the season with a back injury that required surgery, and the Magic were ousted in five games by the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the playoffs.
Even if Howard is offered a say in who the next coach and general manager will be, the Magic will want him do sign an extension before ceding that type of power to him. Two coaches who worked with Howard on Team USA, Mike D’Antoni and Nate McMillan, are currently unemployed after being fired by the Knicks and Trail Blazers midway through this season. Several news outlets have reported that Michael Malone, the lead assistant in Golden State and the son of former NBA head coach Brendan Malone, is a favorite to be given consideration.
The Orlando Sentinel has already published a list of potential replacement candidates. Click to give it a read.