There is a tug-of-war going on in the upper reaches of Amway Center. Dwight Howard's trade request is pulling the franchise apart at the seams.
The past few days have thrown back the curtain on how poorly the Magic have handled Dwight Howard and what eventually led to his request for a trade from Orlando. Even with that request in to the Magic front office, they don't seem too sure it is really what he wants. Howard then voiced his displeasure with personnel moves the Magic made. And the front office still seems to believe Howard will end up staying in Orlando and that they can do the work to keep him.
The seat has never been hotter for Otis Smith for sure. The move he makes next -- whether it is to ship out Dwight Howard or something to keep Dwight Howard in -- will impact Magic history for the better part of the next decade. And it feels like the team has yet to make the first decision necessary to move forward:
Whether or not actually to trade Dwight Howard.
It might be just public relations talk to keep hope up and sell tickets, it might be the truth that the team believes it can make the move necessary to convince Dwight Howard to stay, it might be just delusions of grandeur, but the Magic are not giving up and are not in a hurry to make a decision one way or the other. Brian Serra of Magic Basketball Online reported Sunday that there was serious unrest in management about trading Dwight Howard.
Maybe that stance was strengthened by a meeting between Dwight Howard and management earlier Monday. Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel writes the door might have been left slightly ajar for staying in Orlando:
It is difficult to move forward if you are not sure of the direction your team is going. And that appears to be where the Magic are at: unsure of the direction of this team and unsure exactly what they are going to do. At some point they have to commit to a strategy -- to keep Dwight Howard no matter the circumstance and work to improve the roster or work to trade him and get the best deal.
It would be extremely difficult to move forward with one, while working on the other.
The Magic believe Howard can still be re-signed. Reportedly, they are working on both ends both to satisfy Howard's trade request and to improve the team enough to convince him to stay. The emotion of the weekend appears to have worn off. Even Howard publicly admitted Monday that the team can still do something to keep him, as Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel reports:
"As of right now, I have on a Magic uniform. Right? So I'm with nobody else, and that's the only thing that matters. And if it's meant for me to stay here, then I'll stay. And I love this city. There's no place I'd rather be but here in Orlando. And I just want to make sure that we have the right things here so we can win a championship.
"And I'm all about change. If you're willing to change and you're willing to do what it takes to win, then, you know, you've got me. And if you're not willing to do what it takes to win, I don't think anybody here would question anybody's motives if you want to stay in the same position you are."
Those are not exactly ringing words that make you believe Howard is anywhere near reversing his trade request. But it is enough maybe for the Magic to make a decision on the future direction of the team.
It sounds like the team has the resolve to give one last run at keeping Dwight Howard. That is what the Glen Davis acquisition seemed to signal. And that appears to be how the team is proceeding.
that appears to be their choice.
If Dwight Howard is going to continue as a member of the team for the foreseeable future, the team has to resolve the alleged discord between Otis Smith and Dwight Howard. Howard used his media availability on Sunday to rail against the moves Smith has made and claim that the team has not listened to his requests or listened to his opinion regarding trades. This frustration might go back to the breakup of the 2009 Finals team (despite the 59 wins and Eastern Conference Finals trip in 2010) and the Rashard Lewis trade from last year. Lee and Lewis were two of Howard's closest friends.
Smith said that the Magic looked into the players Dwight Howard wanted. They acquired some, they did not acquire others and moved on. Hindsight is 20/20 and since we are standing where we are, clearly Howard has a reason to be frustrated.
Reportedly Alex Martins, Otis Smith and Dwight Howard had a meeting before media day that seemed to stem the tide of negativity flowing out of the Amway Center. Howard came out with a much more positive outlook for Magic fans. Martins came out saying the Magic are still committed to doing whatever it takes to keep Howard in a Magic uniform.
There still seems to be a wide gulf between what the Magic hope can happen and what Howard would need to happen to stay. Orlando is playing a somewhat dangerous game in trying to play both sides of the coin when it comes to Dwight Howard.
The best thing for the franchise is to pick a strategy and pursue it fully. You only hurt your bargaining position by trying to have it both ways.
Orlando is clearly trying to include Howard in its future and show that it can be the place where Howard can get everything he wants. But Howard either is playing a massive bluff to get what he wants or is unconvinced of change actually happening and is putting on a smile for the press.
Hopefully after Monday there is more clarity in the front office on what the next step is and what the plan moving forward is. The franchise seems willing to take a patient approach, even if it means possibly getting less for Howard when the trade deadline draws near.
The Howard future is as uncertain as ever. And the Magic's front office to this point is not inspiring much confidence.