It has been the one unspoken directive for the Magic this entire offseason. After a failed trade in December to reshape and remake the roster, the Magic have stared down the Dwight Howard future right in the face. And, frankly, after all the Bob Vander Weide mess, it is looking much much bleaker -- although it appears that story was a bit overblown although the timing is still odd.
It seems as the beginning of training camp gets closer and closer, the Magic have to make some progress toward acquiring a star to pair with Dwight Howard or beginning looking to trade Dwight Howard to get as much value as they can for him.
It seems like there are a lot of teams in play to acquire either Chris Paul or Dwight Howard. Lots of rumors are circling and many of the teams it involves have no guarantee to sign their recently acquired players to an extension. Still, the Warriors and the Clippers have pulled ahead in the Chris Paul sweepstakes and it sure seems like New Orleans will move Paul very soon.
The Dwight Howard front is quiet. Despite every national outlet suggesting that Howard is on his way out to anywhere from Los Angeles to Chicago. The Magic have fielded some calls -- notably Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times reports the Lakers had "cursory" talks with the Magic regarding Howard, but the Magic did not seem so interested unless the Lakers included Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant -- but are not looking to trade Howard at the moment.
There have been no indications of what came out during the nearly four-hour meeting between Otis Smith and Howard from Monday. But some reports state Howard made no demands and re-affirmed his desire to stay in Orlando.
What likely happened in that meeting is what one would expect and what David Baumann of Bright House Sports Network reported this weekend:
"One of Dwight's closest confidants told me that he wanted to make it perfectly clear that Howard's preference is to stay here in Orlando rather than be traded. Howard's hope is that Magic President Otis Smith 'hits a home run' via trade and acquires another NBA superstar, most notably Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets. Monta Ellis of the Golden State Warriors was another name also mentioned."
The objective seems simple: acquire Chris Paul or some other star to complement Howard, perhaps without regard to the state of the rest of the roster as Matt Moore of Eye On Basketball suggested. That seems to be what the Magic are thinking and their strategy at the moment.
Baumann reports the Magic are targeting Paul and Deron Williams in trades. The Monta Ellis report also seems to be true as well. Orlando is being aggressive going after the star Howard needs to complement him and make Orlando a championship-contending team again.
That task is difficult considering Orlando is full of bloated contracts and veteran players. Those are not the players you use to acquire superstar players. Someone has to really be in love with Hedo Turkoglu or Gilbert Arenas to make this trade work -- especially since both are underperforming even by their more modest expectations. A deal may not be had at the beginning of the season, it may take some good breaks and a good start from either of those players to increase their value.
Still, these are the options the Magic have to explore.
Orlando is in a very different place than it was last year. Last year, the Magic were returning a team that looked unbeatable for a good chunk of the season and had no reason to expect a dramatic decline.
When Chris Paul rumors began swirling then, it made less sense to break up the team even though the team had more assets to make that deal happen. It seemed a risky mix up -- the Hornets would insist on getting back Marcin Gortat while sheeding Emeka Okafor's contract -- to a team with so much success. And then Paul said he didn't want to be traded anyway.
Now, Orlando doesn't have those pieces that might have attracted a team like New Orleans (or New Jersey or Golden State) to make a deal. It is going to become very tricky to come up with a deal that will make all sides happy.
What is everyone looking for here? A lot. A lot more than I think you want to read in this post.
The Magic will have a few targets -- Paul, Williams, Ellis and Atlanta's Josh Smith have been mentioned specifically. And there are a lot of complex and difficult ways that the Magic need to explore to pull out this deal and bring in the talent the Magic need to get back to the championship level.
I will address that in part two tomorrow as we try to make a Chris Paul (or other player) deal work. Send me your suggestions in the comments below or on Twitter and I may include them in the post tomorrow!