It did not take long after the NBA Finals ended for the crazy rumor to be broached. Yes, after Orlando's first round exit in the Playoffs, the concern for Dwight Howard's future in Orlando grew to a seeming fevered pitch. It was made worse when Jeff Van Gundy suggested following Game Six of the NBA Finals the Heat consider trading for Dwight Howard.
That got some in a tizzy wondering if the Magic would even accept a LeBron James-for-Dwight Howard deal or if there was any way the Heat could acquire the best big man in the league.
Van Gundy's suggestion was more of an off-the-cuff Miami needs to do something suggestion more than an actual trade proposal that had basis in any fact. With this Howard speculation though, it is easier to move on rumor than on fact in gathering information.
Here is what we know: Howard said he wants to stay in Orlando, but wants assurances that he will be competing for a championship. That is Howard's ultimate goal.
It seems all 30 teams are doing something to gear up for Howard's free agency in 2012. Magic fans are looking for any ray of hope they can that Howard is going to stay -- and honestly, the only ray of hope is the Magic delivering dramatic improvement and putting themselves in position to win a championship.
There is one team we might be able to cross off the list -- the Miami Heat.
Howard said at Comic-Con while promoting a cartoon he lent his voice to that he won't take his talents to South Beach.
"Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard was peppered with several fan questions surrounding his free agency while on a panel for 'Kick Buttowski,' the Disney XD animated series in which he voices the character of Rock Callahan," Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel wrote. "For the record, Howard said he'll 'never' play for the Heat and when asked about the Lakers he responded, 'That's everybody's question. I am wearing purple … but that's Rock's outfit.'"
Howard has become a master of deflection and answering questions with outs so he does not get trapped in anything he says. But we might finally have one clear answer from Howard. As of now, Howard will not consider the Heat.
And I am pretty sure the Magic will not trade inside the division with the Heat either -- not unless they make some crazy offer that includes two of The Three and other goodies.
Howard has done plenty to stoke the fire between the Magic and the Heat. He and Stan Van Gundy have been two of the Heat's main in-league antagonists. But as Ben Golliver of Eye on Basketball writes, this appears to be Howard stating a philosophical difference to the trio in Miami. Don't get your hopes up, again Howard is good at this deflection thing as free agency looms.
The good news out of this? You can cross off one team for the free agency push of 2012.
One down, 28 more to go.
Photo via DayLife.com.