In recent years, NBA stars have relocated across the league like never before. The new trend of players demanding to be put in a championship situation has set forth a precedent of management catering to a star’s every need in the hopes of temporary appeasement. There’s just one problem with the ways both management and star players like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and now Dwight Howard have gone about doing so in recent seasons– public hostaging of their respective franchises.
Prior to the free agent mega class of 2010 headlined by LeBron, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Carlos Boozer, the trend of big 3′s and 4′s forming together was considered taboo in the NBA at the time.
In 2007, the Boston Celtics ushered in the original big 3 in this new era with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. Their formation was due to trades (some raising eyebrows with the Garnett addition from longtime friend and teammate of Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge – Kevin McHale). After Garnett was acquired Ainge pulled off another heist acquiring Allen for the then Seattle SuperSonics’ 5th and 32nd overall picks in the 2007 draft. Those picks turned out to be Jeff Green and Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis.
A year later the rival Los Angeles Lakers followed the same script as the Celtics, acquiring Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies in a similar heist to the Garnett and Allen deals. In compensation for receiving Gasol, the Lakers dealt perennial draft bust and former number one overall pick in 2001 Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton and Gasol’s younger brother Marc. Marc Gasol, once an afterthought in the deal, has gone on to become an all-star player for the Grizzlies, making his first all-star team in the 2011-2012 season.
With both of these deals, the future of the NBA was drastically changed as both the Celtics and Lakers returned to prominence after winning the title in the years they pulled off their deal – (Boston in 2008 and Los Angeles in 2009).
Now onto the present, where Dwight Howard has a new home and is the new franchise centerpiece of the Los Angeles Lakers. Howard recently made news, in an interview with ESPN’s Ric Bucher by saying “I never wanted anybody to hate me” when asked his reaction to how people perceive him now that the “Where will Dwight Howard land?” saga is over.
Here’s where people might view Howard’s method of apologia as either a public relations stunt of image repair or truly an attempt at an act of being contrite. Howard asserted, “I never wanted anybody to hate me, you know. I wanted everybody to love me, you know, like me, for sticking around and doing what they wanted me to do. And making everybody else happy. And that was a valuable lesson for me, you know.”
Yet also on the end of not being contrite, Howard quickly moved on saying “But I have an opportunity to do something great here in L.A, and I can’t look back and think about everything that’s behind me.” Just like LeBron’s case, some fans won’t be as forgiving this upcoming season. The sting of Howard simply quitting on Orlando still burns like a flesh wound in everyone’s minds.
With several months of Howard saying, “yes I’ll opt in, wait no, maybe, no, possibly, yes” to the Orlando Magic, he held the franchise hostage because they could not gauge his true intentions for his future. Management led by Magic CEO Alex Martins decided to relieve the most successful coach in franchise history – Stan Van Gundy of his duties as part of the effort to appease Howard. But yet, this gesture wasn’t enough to change his mind.
All summer Howard relentlessly let the world know that his favored destination was that of the Brooklyn Nets. By going to a franchise that is moving to Brooklyn and the opportunity to pair with fellow All-Star Deron Williams, Howard wanted to write his own legacy. If he went to the Lakers, his career would too closely resemble the original ‘Superman’ Shaquille O’Neal who also decided to leave the Orlando Magic, by departing as a free agent to the Lakers in 1996.
Howard’s indecisiveness had a domino effect as it caused the Nets to move on, by trading for All-Star Joe Johnson, Re-Sign Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez to contracts and not hold themselves as hostages waiting for the Magic to pull the trigger on a deal.
Upon the Nets deal falling through, the Magic new that they could not enter training camp with the Howard debacle on its hands because it would surely be a distraction throughout the season. Left with no wiggle room and bargaining power, the Magic caved in and sent Howard to the Lakers in a four-team, five draft picks and eleven player blockbuster deal that also involved the Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets.
New Magic GM Rob Henningan came out as the loser in the trade. The deal was viewed as another gift to the Lakers of a franchise center, with the Magic receiving only subpar mid-first round picks and above average but not star players in Aaron Affalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vuvecic and Moe Harkless. The Magic are now imploring fans to put their faith in a losing product with an end result of possibly gaining the next Dwight Howard in the draft.
The purpose of the brief flashback in history was to indicate how the past always affects the present and the future. In the instance of the Dwight Howard saga, he is lucky to be in the situation that he now finds himself in. Another future Hall-of-Famer on the pantheon of all-time great Laker Centers? Perhaps someday he can join the Mount Everest of Laker Centers: George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal and HECK even Andrew Bynum. For now, being contrite and repairing his ruptured image in the eyes of the public will do.