Monday morning, Jordan Schultz of The Huffington Post dropped a bit of a bombshell on Magic fans.
In a time when some were hopeful/dreading Dwight Howard showing up to camp at Amway Center for the beginning of the season and convincing him into staying, that thought certainly ended. Sources close to Howard told Schultz that Howard is prepared to sit out the entire 2012-13 season if he is still in Orlando.
That is a pretty big statement to make. With how big that statement was, I wanted to talk to the reporter himself. I got in touch with Jordan Schultz on Monday afternoon to ask him for his take on the Dwight Howard situation and flesh out exactly what his sense of it all is. Especially in light of this new information.
Schultz is the lead sports columnist for Huffington Post. He broke the Ray Allen signing in Miami and the Marcus Camby trade to New York.
What came out in the interview below is a star player frustrated with how the franchise has treated him (compared to other stars) and a player hungry to win a title. But most importantly, it is a player that wants to move on. Before, I begin the interview, Schultz wanted to stress that this is what his sources are telling him now. Don't bring your pitch forks and torches if Howard suits up at the beginning of training camp.
Not that he would last long in Orlando anyway. The situation is still very fluid although it looks very certain Howard will not be back in Orlando.
Orlando Magic Daily: Explain your report a little bit more. Is this a willful decision from Dwight that he does not ever want to play for the Magic again or is his injury much worse than reported?
Jordan Schultz: I would say it is a decision by [Dwight Howard]. He obviously wants to win, but he feels he has not been respected at all. He feels he's been disrespected from the owners. That is from his injuries all the way to the top.
OMD: What is your understanding of the role the Magic's handling of Dwight's back injury played in Dwight's decision-making to divorce from the franchise?
Schultz: He doesn't feel they took his injury serious, especially considering his status [as a superstar]. There are certain things with this I cannot share, but lets just say there were numerous issues that upset him.
OMD: In your view, and from the people you have spoken to, is there any (even the slightest iota) hope of any type of reconciliation with the Magic? In other words, how certain are you that Dwight Howard has played his last game in a Magic uniform trade or not?
Schultz: One hundred percent no. PR-wise, he probably has gotten past the point where he will take a hit. At this point, he wants to do what is best for him on the court. and clearly that doesn't have anything to do with Orlando.
OMD: Magic fans have all been a little close to this situation being in Orlando and following this on a day-to-day basis. What is the perception of the whole "Dwight-mare" in a city like New York? What do you think this perception has done to Howard's marketability? How does he repair this in his new locale?
Schultz: Nationally, I think the perception is obviously negative. I think he is trying to move on because at this point if he tried to come back and play [in Orlando], there isn't a lot to be accomplished. There is a lot that could go wrong. This is not a contender; he could have more issues with a new head coach and his back is still a question mark, which is a key reason why he would sit out next season.
Brooklyn can come back on Jan. 15, but from Rob Hennigan's perspective, I feel like the deal should have been done. Orlando has lost a lot of leverage; now the Magic is the side with all the pressure to get a deal done.
OMD: What opportunities can a player like Dwight Howard really get in a bigger market like New York that the out-of-town fan does not realize? How prevalent is Deron Williams in local and national advertising since his move from Utah to New Jersey/Brooklyn?
Schultz: To me, he wants to play in a big market because he's Superman and I don't know if Orlando -- in his mind -- provides such a possibility. Plus, he knows he won't win [immediately]. He wants to be in a big market; no question. That's why wouldn't resign [with teams like] Houston or why he didn't even entertain returning to his hometown, Atlanta. He also really wants to play with Deron Williams. Any great big man desperately wants an elite point, and Dwight has never had that opportunity.
OMD: What is your sense on how this all will play out? Where will Dwight Howard be playing this season? Can Brooklyn pull itself back in after signing Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace?
Schultz: At this point, I would be very surprised if something happens with Houston or Los Angeles; I think the window has closed to be honest.
Plenty did not make it into the interview above from my discussion with Schultz.
Schultz told me Howard is looking to go to a winner and maximize his marketability. This is just something he does not feel can happen in Orlando. And his desire to play with Deron Williams is born out of that long-held report that Howard wants to play with an elite point guard.
A lot of the relationship broke down because of the way the Magic treated Howard, particularly after the injury. Schultz said Howard felt the franchise did not treat him as superstars on other teams are treated. And certainly the disagreement about the seriousness of Howard's back injury when it initially happened and the lone trip to L.A. by Otis Smith and Magic officials to check in on him certainly did not help that perception.
Schultz said Orlando did try to get Howard to stay. The firing of Otis Smith and Stan Van Gundy were part of that effort. Hennigan did his best to convince Howard to remain in Orlando and give the new regime a chance. But Schultz's source told him that Howard did not want to wait through a coach he was unfamiliar with on a roster that was not ready to win a championship.