Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel reports Dwight Howard has asked the Magic for a trade. Otis Smith told the Sentinel that Howard actually re-iterated his request for a trade today after making the request twice earlier in the week.
It appears the franchise has run out of time perhaps to appease Howard. The writing was on the wall when the team granted Howard's agent, Dan Fegan, permission to discuss trades with the Nets, Lakers and Mavericks. Maybe we still want to believe there is a chance to convince Dwight to stay. Maybe the team still wants to believe that.
A week of discord has revealed one thing though: without major immediate change, the only option is to say good-bye to one of the league's best players and most likely the best player in the franchise's 23-year history.
Otis Smith will still be burning it on both ends. There is still a faction within the Magic not convinced of Howard's absolute desire to leave Orlando. The front office is divided on what to do as Brian Serra of Magic Basketball Online reports.
Howard, though, does not appear divided. The fact Otis Smith himself gave the Orlando Sentinel this information and the fact that the report states Howard requested a trade multiple times says Howard has made his ultimate decision.
Yes, I think Howard would like to stay in Orlando in a perfect world. If somehow the Magic could acquire a big-name star or revamp the roster enough to contend for a championship again, Robbins reports Smith believes Howard would stay. But that is not where we are anymore.
As illustrated throughout the week, it is going to take a lot of maneuvering and some good luck to create a package to bring in a star. Likely someone has to like Hedo Turkoglu enough and likely Orlando would have to take on a lot of bad salaries.
PRE-JUMP UPDATE: Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel and Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports report the Magic have re-signed Jason Richardson to a four-year deal. Will have more on the Richardson signing Sunday afternoon before the Dwight madness picks up again.
Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel reports that just because a trade request is in, does not mean that Dwight is officially gone. It might seem like a foregone conclusion, but the Magic will still work to bring in the pieces necessary to make this a championship team again:
"Smith emphasized that the Magic want to keep Howard long-term, and he added that Howard and his camp haven’t told the team that he definitely will not remain with the franchise. Indeed, Smith repeated what Magic officials have said for days: that the team will make every effort to keep the All-NBA First Team center."
But it doesn't seem likely that mystical team with a cure-all superstar is out there. And so, smith will go the trade route and try to make the best deal possible for the Magic as a franchise.
That may not be New Jersey's offer -- reported to be Brook Lopez and two first round picks for Howard and Hedo Turkoglu -- but that is apparently where Howard wants to go (as Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports).
For the moment, Smith and the Magic hold the cards.
Smith told Robbins that the Magic will not be strong-armed into sending Howard specifically where he wants. The team will make a deal that is best for the franchise. If New Jersey wants Dwight Howard that bad, they will have to find a way to make it worth it for Orlando. Any team has to do it.
And Otis Smith knows the deal that he gets for Dwight Howard this year not only could make his job a little safer (a little, not much, he is on thin ice right now) but could affect the future of the franchise for the next decade. This is a precarious time for sure.
Orlando is not going to rush into anything one way or the other. The team is going to do what is best for it. Obviously, the Magic will lose leverage as the clock ticks closer to the March 15 trade deadline (yes, there is a chance Dwight Howard will be in a Magic uniform during All-Star Weekend ... in Orlando), but right now they have the superstar center the other 29 teams want. If there is a team willing to risk losing him at season's end for one shot at glory, Orlando would be happy to deal with them.
Just like Howard led the Magic along all offseason before making a decision, the Magic can do the same in searching for a deal. Eventually it will come. Hopefully, it is the right one that will include some short contracts and draft picks so the Magic can begin clearing the deck and rebuilding -- also fortunately, the Glen Davis deal is not official yet... at least I have not received a press release about it yet).
Just remember this is all strictly business.
Dwight Howard is not going to let any trade rumors or anything else cut into the work he puts in for the team he is playing for. If Howard is not traded before the season starts, I have no doubt we will see an MVP-caliber performance from him. He isn't Vince Carter or Carmelo Anthony who tanked games and didn't give a full effort while waiting to be traded. At least, we hope he is not.
The writing is clearly on the wall now. Unless the team does something miraculous in the next few days or unless Dwight Howard has a Billy Donovan-like change of heart, Howard will be playing for another team for the 2012-13 season and very possibly sooner.
The Magic made too many mistakes in personnel moves and did not win a championship while the window was open. Simply state, Orlando ran out of time to take advantage of its superstar.