The New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets finally ended the Carmelo Anthony drama.
Unfortunately that will not spare NBA fans the constant speculation and rumor milling that would have occurred if Melo had stayed in Denver.
Now the spotlight shines on the Orlando Magic and their franchise center Dwight Howard.
The buzz surrounding Dwight’s potential free-agency this summer had already begun. Now it takes center stage.
The big-name free-agency game gives Howard three choices and three roles to potentially play.
His choices are simple, sign an extension, hold out until the summer to re-sign or find a new team.
The three possible roles Howard can play, depend greatly on his motives.
He can go the Dwayne Wade route. Opt for free-agency, and use the threat of leaving to force the Magic to find a way to sign Chris Paul or Darrin Williams.
He can go the Lebron James route, wait until he’s a free-agent, solicit offers, and end up with another franchise.
He can go the Melo the route, and agree to a trade before becoming a free-agent.
Magic fans obviously hope Howard decides to follow in the foot steps of Wade. Playing the role of salesman, he would in theory utilize his relationships to convince other big name players to join him in Orlando
For Magic VP Otis Smith, the scrutiny will also begin in earnest. Already being criticized for his mid-season trades, Orlando fans will be watching closely.
If things don’t go well, fans will need a scapegoat, and Otis Smith has already been setup to take the fall. Unfairly in my opinion.
Smith’s Magic appeared in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals two consecutive seasons. Only one other team in the East has done that, and Lebron James was not on Boston’s roster.
Smith comes into the situation with an advantage over his predecessors. Unlike Denver and Cleveland, the Magic have the benefit of the upcoming CBA negotiations.
By the time we see a tip-off in Orlando for the 2011-12 season, the NBA could move to a hard salary cap and/or a system that allows teams to franchise players similar to the NFL.
In addition, David Stern publicly stated in an interview with Bill Simmons of ESPN, that shorter contracts were on the owner’s CBA negotiation wish list.
Shorter contracts would mean players like Howard could take a chance on staying with a team, knowing they would still be able to leave with good years left in their career.
Not offering an extension could be Smith’s and the Magic’s best move. In fact signing an early extension might be what Howard prefers if he thinks NBA pay days will decrease.
The spotlight will now shine very brightly on Orlando’s fans.
Orlando fans have never been considered the most astute. Most often Orlando faithful get mocked— many believing Magic fans lack knowledge of the game. To a certain extent, the reputation has been earned.
Many fans complained about the money Lewis received with his Orlando contract. No one seems to be upset about the $6 million JJ Redick earns for poor dribbling, inconsistent shooting and being the biggest defensive liability on the floor most nights.
Popular sentiment among Magic faithful, seems to be that Howard has already decided to make the move to Los Angeles.
Howard’s highly publicized All-Star party, along with his statements out in LA have fans already planning their jersey burning parties in the City Beautiful.
Fans believe they have learned the tricks.
Many want Howard to come out now and commit to staying with the Magic. The belief that a lack of willingness to commit indicates Howard intends to leave, seems silly to me.
Sports is a business. Howard needs to find his value before committing to any team. JJ Redick did this with his restricted free-agency this past summer.
How Magic fans spend the time between now and then, could help Howard decide that the scrutiny and short-comings of a small market team, make staying not worth the hassle.