(The Root) — Dwight Howard did himself no favors in dragging out his exit from Orlando. He turned off Magic fans and NBA fans everywhere with his wishy-washy ways, going back and forth in deciding whether to stay or go. He was one of the NBA’s most popular superstars entering last season, but vacillating followed by trade ultimatums transformed Howard from a lovable giant to a national “Dwightmare.”
But one team’s curse can be another team’s blessing, and the Los Angeles Lakers believe that will be the case with Howard in Hollywood. The Lakers joined forces with Philadelphia and Denver for a four-team deal that seems to benefit every team except Orlando.
How does that work? The Magic traded Howard, the best player in the deal, but failed to land either the second- (Andrew Bynum) or third-best player (Andre Iguodala) in return. Orlando got a bunch of middling and/or unproven players, plus five draft picks over five years.
“A primary goal for our basketball team is to achieve sustainability while maintaining a long-term vision. We feel this deal puts us in a position to begin building in that direction,” Magic General Manager Rob Hennigan said. “In addition to the six players joining our team, we will be in a position to maximize our salary-cap flexibility in the near future, as well as utilize the multiple draft picks we have acquired going forward.”
Good luck selling that vison to a city that watched the Magic advance to the NBA Finals three years ago. Good luck drawing fans to 2-year-old Amway Center, which now will do well to fill two-thirds of its 18,846 seats. Good luck explaining how coach Stan Van Gundy was fired because Howard didn’t like him, though he’d be the perfect coach for this post-Howard team.
This is a bad case of déjà vu for Orlando, which was heartbroken when Shaquille O’Neal left town for the Lakers. The Magic didn’t get squat in that transaction, since O’Neal departed via free agency. At least losing Howard brings something in return, even if it’s nothing to get excited about.
This is a familiar script for the Lakers as well, who have a habit of acquiring other teams’ franchise centers. In 1996 it was Shaq, a former Rookie of the Year. In 1975 it was three-time MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In 1968 it was four-time MVP Wilt Chamberlain. The latest move won instant approval from Kobe Bryant, who took a moment from his Team USA duties to reflect.
“Well, it looks like Superman has found a home,” Bryant wrote on his Facebook page. ” … I know LA is excited about the deal and rightfully so. The Lakers landed a piece that will hopefully carry the franchise long after I’m gone. I have spoken to Dwight Howard already and we are locked and loaded to bring back the title.”
There would have been much more excitement in Orlando if management had accepted one of the previous offers from the Brooklyn Nets, Houston Rockets or Golden State Warriors. The Magic would have had a much more formidable team. Instead, it appears that the Magic shipped away their competitive spirit along with Howard.