“I’m going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.”
With those words, then free agent LeBron James set in motion a whirlwind of divergent opinions regarding his loyalty to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the burning of his Cavaliers jersey by fans, and his vilification by fans who once viewed him as a good guy.
However, looming on the horizon is the same situation for another NBA superstar — Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard.
Should Howard not resign with Orlando prior to his free agency in 2012, he will be weighing his options as James did. But if you look closely, Howard eerily shares similar situations as James did.
Just like what James went through in Cleveland, Howard has never had a another star player battling alongside him and the players who have surrounded him since joining the Magic have never been top-notch.
Time and time again, the Magic had solid regular season performances but when it came to the playoffs, Orlando has came up short just like James and the Cavaliers. Howard has been the steady force for the Magic in the playoffs, as he was in this season’s playoff run, while his teammates disappeared or were not enough to help Howard push forward to the next playoff series, just as James was for Cleveland.
Just like James in Cleveland, the Magic made one appearance in the NBA Finals where they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers and have never made it back. Again, Howard was the only force for Orlando while the team wilted.
And now with his impending free agency, the Magic will be scrambling to add a star player to show Howard the team is focused on improving and give him a reason to resign with the team.
But making any move will prove daunting.
Arenas is owed about $62 million over the next three years if he doesn’t take a bizarre step and invoke his early termination option after the 2011-12 season. Turkoglu, meanwhile, is owed $23 million over the next two seasons and has an unguaranteed year in place for 2013-14.
“Their payroll is the second-highest in the league behind the Lakers and they’ve got a couple of salary albatrosses in Gilbert Arenas and Hedo.”
Just like Cleveland, Orlando will make or try to make any and all moves hoping it will be enough for Howard to resign.
But what if Orlando can’t swing a deal to bring in another star quality player? What if Chris Paul and Deron Williams – two players suspected Orlando could target – do not join the Magic either through a trade or when they become free agents? What if the Lakers – who most think will make a run at Howard – come calling?
Should that happen, then Howard and the Magic should be unlike James and the Cavaliers.
There should be no ESPN “Decision” special. Howard and the Magic should handle it behind closed doors with all parties involved. Do not drag it out. Howard should tell Orlando ahead of time of his decision, and confront the fans directly.
He should not go on Twitter and mention anything regarding karma like James did and stoke the fires. He should be ready for the fan backlash who once suffered though Shaquille O’Neal’s departure from Orlando, but above all handle it with maturity.
He will have his detractors, his loyalty might be called into question, but under no circumstances should he take a page out of James’ playbook. He should not organize a TV special as a fundraiser and appear to be self-serving. Thank the fans, the Orlando franchise and move on quietly.
As for the Magic, there should be no letter from the owner attacking Howard. Yes address the fans but do not make a spectacle of yourself as Dan Gilbert did.
And if what is past is prologue, and Howard decides to remain and resign with Orlando, then he should follow in the footsteps of another NBA star when he made his decision to stay with the team he started with — Kevin Durant.