Earlier this week, our Mark Heisler reported that the Orlando Magic would be willing to wait until next summer to trade Dwight Howard if that is what it takes to get fair value for the superstar center.
It’s hard to imagine Howard even coming to training camp with the Magic, let alone playing the entire season in Orlando, where he is slightly more popular than George Zimmerman and Casey Anthony.
But what if he did?
The NBA schedule was released Thursday, and more than one-third of Orlando’s games – 28 out of 82 – are against teams that have been mentioned as potential trade partners for Howard.
Howard wants to be traded to Brooklyn. But he said in December that he also would accept a trade to Dallas or the Los Angeles Lakers. Then our Chris Sheridan uncovered that he also would consider the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Houston Rockets have made no secret of their desire to acquire Howard. The Cleveland Cavaliers could be part of a reported three-team deal involving Howard. And there are speculative cities such as New York, Chicago and Atlanta.
And the media in all those cities will treat their team’s matchup with the Magic as if the Ringling Bros. have come to town.
The Magic don’t go more than three weeks without playing one of the nine teams. They have seven sets of back-to-back games against such teams. So until Howard is traded, the story won’t go away.
Here’s how it might play out:
Nov. 6 at Chicago: Hours before the Magic tip off against the Bulls, Skip Bayless screams that Howard would be a bad fit in Chicago because “the Windy City already has something really tall that just stands there – the Sears Tower.”
Nov. 9 vs. Brooklyn: The Magic issue 110 credentials to New York area news outlets sent to Florida to cover the game. When they all crowd into the locker room to talk to Howard, he tells them one of the reasons he wants to leave is because the Magic need a new, bigger arena.
Nov. 11 at Brooklyn: On his first trip to the NBA’s newest arena, Howard is clandestinely wined and dined by Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who plies him with a bag of diamonds from one of is mines, serves him vodka in Brighton Beach and promises him a mail-order bride from his native Russia.
Nov. 13 vs. New York: Spike Lee, already in Orlando planning a movie about Trayvon Martin, appears in a courtside seat wearing a Knicks jersey with Howard’s name and familiar No. 12. Howard exchanges a bro hug with Lee, then manages four points and five rebounds as he is shut down by Tyson Chandler.
Nov. 19 at Atlanta: Howard’s homecoming is televised by NBA TV, which fills its studio with all of its analysts to dissect the drama. Brent Barry offers a variety of opinions on Howard’s future, and Steve Smith, Dennis Scott, Kendall Gill, Rick Fox, Greg Anthony and Brevin Knight all repeatedly say nothing more than “I agree” after each one.
Nov. 23 vs. Cleveland: Howard fouls out in 18 minutes of a home loss to the Cavaliers as Anderson Varejao draws six charging fouls by flopping, immediately becoming a favorite of Magic fans.
Nov. 30 vs. Brooklyn: After playing the Nets for the third time in three weeks, Magic GM Rob Hennigan accuses David Stern of fixing the schedule to give Nets players multiple opportunities before the trading deadline to recruit Howard to Brooklyn.
Dec. 2 at LA Lakers: Mitch Kupchak’s chances of landing Howard take a huge blow when T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times calls Howard a “diva” and a “prima donna” in his Sunday column after Howard blows off his interview request at Saturday’s practice.
Dec. 12 vs. Atlanta: In an attempt to deflect the unrelenting media glare off his old AAU buddy, Hawks forward Josh Smith tells GM Danny Ferry he is not signing a contract extension and will become a free agent.
Jan. 2 vs. Chicago: Still working his way back from a torn ACL, Bulls guard Derrick Rose travels with the team and is seen talking privately with Howard in an arena corridor. When asked if Rose was recruiting Howard, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau tersely snaps, “No. We have enough to win.”
Jan. 5 vs. New York: The Big Apple media contingent traveling to cover the game is so big that they get together to charter their own plane and book every room in the Orlando Marriott.
Jan. 12 at LA Clippers: The night before the game, Howard has dinner with Chris Paul and asks his advice on how to demand a trade without being labeled as a selfish jerk.
Jan. 20 vs. Dallas: After Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tells the Orlando Sentinel that his team’s plan is to clear enough salary cap room to sign both Howard and Chris Paul in the summer, he is fined $5 million for tampering by Stern.
Jan. 28 at Brooklyn: Howard buys the Brooklyn Bridge from a vendor on Fulton Street for the bargain price of just $10,000.
Jan. 30 at New York: Staying in the same hotel for three straight days to play a pair of road games five miles apart, Howard complains about the rigors of NBA travel.
Feb. 6 vs. LA Clippers: Blake Griffin posterizes Howard with one of his patented flying dunk/cross-eyed stare combinations that immediately goes viral on YouTube. After the game, Paul correctly notes that would have never happened if Howard had joined the Clippers.
Feb. 8 at Cleveland: With the trade deadline approaching, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert tells the media nothing is imminent regarding a reported three-way deal with the Magic and Lakers that would land Andrew Bynum in Cleveland. He also says Howard is much less of a villain than LeBron James.
Feb. 13 vs. Atlanta: With rumors running rampant, Howard misses his team’s final game before All-Star Weekend with a recurrence of his back injury and withdraws from the midseason showcase. Agent Dan Fegan claims the timing of the injury two days before Howard was to face 1,500 media members in Houston was just a coincidence.
Feb. 20 at Dallas: On the eve of the trading deadline, Howard goes to Hennigan and tells him that he has changed his mind and would like to opt into the final year of his contract. Hennigan politely reminds Howard that he is in the final year of his contract.
Feb. 23 vs. Cleveland: Two days after the trading deadline, the Plain Dealer reports that a proposed three-team trade that would have landed Howard with the Lakers and Andrew Bynum with the Cavaliers did not happen because Gilbert was advised by a high-ranking NBA official to not make the deal. Fegan accuses Stern of meddling. “A high-ranking NBA official,” Fegan said. “Oh, OK, who might that be?”
March 1 vs. Houston: Rockets GM Daryl Morey relentlessly pushes on in his plan to acquire Howard by buying out guard Kevin Martin. In a news release, Morey thanks Martin for his professionalism. Martin goes from last place to first place by signing with the Spurs.
March 12 vs. LA Lakers: An Orlando Sentinel reporter asks Kobe Bryant if last year he really told Howard that he would be the third option on the Lakers behind himself and Pau Gasol. “No, that’s not true,” Bryant said. “And now he’d be the fourth option, behind me, Pau and Steve.”
March 20 at New York: Howard buys the Manhattan Bridge from a vendor on Canal Street for the bargain price of just $10,000.
March 30 at Atlanta: In an attempt to acquire as many of Howard’s cronies as possible, Ferry signs Gilbert Arenas to a 10-day contract. The plan backfires when Arenas shoots 6-of-26 and playfully pulls a gun on Howard during a postgame handshake.
April 1 at Houston: The Rockets drop to 12-62 with a 113-52 loss to the Magic in which Howard goes for 61 points and 33 rebounds. Omer Asik fouls out in 14 minutes with two points and three rebounds. Jeremy Lin sets an NBA record with 15 turnovers.
April 5 at Chicago: Howard tells a large contingent of Bulls reporters that he truly has no interest in joining the Bulls. When asked why, Howard says, “They have enough to win.”
April 7 at Cleveland: With his team unable to land Bynum and floundering in last place in the Central Division, Gilbert composes another email manifesto in which he steadfastly promises Cavs fans that his team will win two championships before LeBron James does.
April 15 vs. Chicago: Before Howard’s last home game with the Magic, he thanks the fans for their “support and patience through a very difficult time in my life.” Fans at Amway Arena show their appreciation by showering Howard with boos, profanities and garbage until the referees call a forfeit.
Chris Bernucca is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops.com. His columns appear Wednesday and Sunday during the season. You can follow him on Twitter.