With the 3/15/12 3:00 PM deadline behind us, let’s take a look at the winners and losers after a fairly eventful day. Let’s get my tirades out of the way by going through the losers first:
Orlando Magic, Dwight Howard’s Public Image
Where do we even begin? After requesting a trade in the off-season, and a series of eyebrow-raising comments and little girly-like, flaky behavior, most expected Dwight to be traded today. But after changing his mind seemingly every 15 minutes, he ultimately decided to waive his ETO to become a free agent this summer and extend this back-and-forth debacle for another year. Sure, it’s a temporary relief for Orlando to keep him and have more time to decide what to do with him. But the stigma of Howard wanting to leave has not changed and will continue to linger with the team. Here is a notional transcript of how I think conversations between him and those giving him advice (whether it’s his friends, Nets personnel, or anyone not qualified to help him make a decision) went:
- [Dwight]: Man, I don’t know what to do. I want to go to Brooklyn and play with my boy D-Will, but I don’t want them to clean out their roster in order to get me.
- [Bad Advisor]: Why don’t you just sign with them as a free agent for less money? That way, they’ll keep Brook Lopez, MarShon Brooks, and draft picks they would have had to give up if they traded for you.
- [Dwight]: Hmm, maybe I could tell them to “roll the dice” [which he stupidly did, by the way] and make them keep me until the off-season, and then maybe I could audition for free agency by carrying my mediocre Magic team to the second roundof the playoffs and beyond!
- [Bad Advisor]: Oh yeah! Maybe tell them that you won’t opt out of your contract this year. That way, you can leave for nothing!
A few hours later, after the Magic told Dwight to sign a waiver to commit to the 2012-13 season:
- [Dwight]: ****, they’re making me sign a waiver because of what I said! I was hoping they would just take my word for it! I don’t know if I want to wait to leave for a whole ‘nother year! They’re totally on to me..
- [Bad Advisor]: Sounds like you’re between a rock and a hard place on this one. They don’t trust you – you have to earn their trust back; maybe after a year, they will think you’re loyal again.
- [Dwight]: Okay, how about this – I’ll just sign the waiver and try to be super loyal from now until next summer so that they can let me go for free! And then, the Nets won’t have to blow up their roster before I get there! And if D-Will leaves by then, I’ll at least have my choice of where I can go when I become a free agent!
- [Bad Advisor]: Great idea! Now just let the Magic and their fans know how sorry you are and that you’re in it for the long run – and by that I mean, you’re in it for another year.
Of course, this is all my personal speculation. But I don’t see anyone else making plausible sense of Dwight’s last 24-48 hours.
Also, if I’m other NBA teams, I don’t even want to touch this guy unless he signs with me long-term. His logic for what he wants in a team has been shaky at best. Even though he claims he wants to pair up with a superstar, he doesn’t want to go to Chicago because it’s too cold. He also wants to be the #1 guy. He wants to play with his friends. He wants to have input on personnel decisions. I mean, seriously, what the heck does he want? Nobody knows, and that’s why nobody pulled the trigger on a trade. That’s what he gets for being flaky.
If you’re a Magic fan, you have to loathe this guy right now. And don’t be fooled for a second – he wants to go elsewhere – just not to a bad and depleted team. In the super awkward and embarrassing press conference after his decision was announced, Dwight pretended that his decision was a result of his “loyalty” to the team. Please! If he were really loyal, he would have signed a long-term extension. Instead, he’s opting to drag this circus on for another year. I can’t wait!
Of all the parties listed below, several were directly affected by the Dwight Howard saga.
New Jersey Nets
The obvious loser, at least for the short term, may have to wait until next summer to reap the benefits of Dwight’s exit strategy. This is a huge blow to their chances of keeping Deron Williams as well, as he may not want to wait an entire year on a bad team before Dwight gets to town. Their inability to land Dwight led them to make a panic trade for Gerald Wallace from Portland.
New York Knicks
Much of the turmoil and destruction of Linsanity has been attributed to Carmelo Anthony and Coach Mike D’Antoni. In a league that seemingly values “star” players more than coaches, D’Antoni became the scapegoat. When D’Antoni resigned, it was a statement by the Knicks that they are behind Carmelo, even though he is the obvious culprit to the Knicks’ struggles. Back when I was gloating about Linsanity, I warned everyone with a disclaimer that Melo may put an abrupt end to the Linsanity. Sadly, my fear of Carmelo’s return was fully realized (read the full article here). Ultimately, Melo refused to adapt to D’Antoni’s offense, and completely destroyed what made Jeremy Lin flourish. In other words, expect Knicks fans and Melo haters to keep up the “Carmelo Anthony Sucks” forums. I don’t blame them. Firing D’Antoni, after he gave the abysmal franchise 10 days of hope without his two “superstars”, and keeping Melo through the trade deadline makes them perhaps the biggest losers of the trade deadline.
Also, blowing out Portland hours after D’Antoni’s firing means nothing. All that meant is that it was a classic “Which Team is Less Dysfunctional” game.
Los Angeles Lakers
With Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum now fully vested in the team, the Lakers can make some noise in the Western Conference. But I really have to question their moves today. After acquiring Ramon Sessions and getting rid of Derek Fisher – who was one of the true staples of the franchise – I’m not so sure if they’re much better. Sessions is a talented scorer and finisher, but not a true point guard. How is that going to mesh with their Big 3? And by getting rid of Fisher, they are going to be relying much more heavily on Kobe Bryant in crunch-time situations. Given their narrow margins of victory over the last several games, I think this may come back to haunt them – especially in the playoffs.
Acquiring Monta Ellis for the oft-injured Andrew Bogut, their now-former franchise player, makes them a virtual lock to acquire the 8th seed in the playoffs. Ekpe Udoh gives them much-needed front court depth, as well.
I know they stood pat today, but their chances of replacing aging point guard Jason Kidd with superstar Deron Williams has increased exponentially. After Dwight Howard’s catastrophic PR actions led him to stay in Orlando for another year, he threw a curveball in D-Will’s plans this offseason. Now, Williams will have to make up his mind as a free agent this summer whether he thinks pairing up with Dwight will be an option or not.
San Antonio Spurs
Once again, never underestimate the Spurs. After a few disappointing seasons by Richard Jefferson, they were finally able to dump him and Stephen Jackson in return. If you recall, Jackson was once a Spur, and was instrumental in their 2003 championship run. As a seasoned veteran this time around, he should fit seamlessly in Popovich’s system. Once again, their savvy roster moves continue to amaze, and I officially consider them to be a legitimate championship contender this spring.