The Dwight Howard drama

Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard sits on the bench during the second quarter against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on March 8, 2012 in Chicago. The Magic won 99-94. UPI/Brian Kersey

Drama queen Dwight Howard generated quite a bit of attention yesterday as contradictory reports surfaced as to whether he would stay in Orlando through next season. Now it looks like he’s staying, but who knows.

Dwight Howard informed Orlando Magic management late Wednesday night that he wants to stay with the team through next season and will not opt out of his contract, according to sources close to the situation.

Howard plans to sign a waiver of the early termination option in his contract Thursday morning. Until both Howard and his agent sign the waiver, the Magic will assume he is not staying and go ahead with their plans to trade him before Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline, sources said.

By signing the waiver, Howard would remain under contract with the Magic through the 2012-2013 season.

Of course this means nothing until Howard signs the paperwork Anything can still happen.

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Lamar Odom traded to the Mavs

Dallas Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzski, right, goes up to block a shot off Los Angeles Lakers’ Lamar Odom in the second half of Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals on May 4, 2011. The Mavericks defeated the Lakers 93-81and lead the best-of-seven playoff series 2-0. UPI/Christine Cotter

The Dallas Mavericks acquired Lamar Odom from the Los Angeles Lakers, which will have ripple effects throughout the NBA as teams try to finalize rosters in this chaotic period following the NBA lockout. Above you see a photo of Odom battling Dirk Nowitzski last year in the NBA playoffs. Instead of working to get revenge for the Lakers, Odom will now be a crucial part of the Dallas effort to return to the NBA finals.

This trade signals the end of the bizarre saga surrounding the Chris Paul trade that was rejected by David Stern. That controversial decision has rocked the NBA, and now we’ll be hearing about it over and over again as New Orleans tries to unload Paul to another team. The Lakers decided to back out of the talks rather than submit a new trade from Chris Paul to the league, and in dealing Odom put an abrupt end to that scenario. Meanwhile, the Lakers now seem to be focusing their attention on acquiring Dwight Howard in a deal that would involve Andrew Bynum.

As for the Mavericks, this trade for Odom became possible when they decided to work a deal with the New York Knicks when it became clear they would be losing center Tyson Chandler to the Knicks. That gave the Mavs an $11 million trade exception which they then used to acquire Odom. Odom made it clear he didn’t want to leave LA, but the powers that be clearly decided to go in another direction.

Dallas has more moves to make as it reworks in roster in the wake of losing Chandler. Chandler was a very important piece of their championship puzzle, but he’s the kind of player that can be replaced. Dallas is now one of the teams that might get a shot at landing Dwight Howard as the Orlando Magic have permitted them along with the Lakers and the New Jersey Nets. There’s also buzz out there that Vince Carter will land in Dallas as well. Carter can still score, but he’s not the kind of player one thinks of to help a championship team. Maybe he’ll be better in a reduced role.

The Dwight Howard sweepstakes will be the next big story that will have ripple effects around the league. We’ll see how serious Dallas is in that contest.

Should the Lakers pursue Dwight Howard?

Orlando Magic’s center Dwight Howard (L) drives against Los Angeles Lakers’ center Andrew Bynum during first half NBA basketball action in Orlando, Florida, February 13, 2010. REUTERS/Kevin Kolczynski (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Kevin Pelton of ESPN says not so fast. (Insider subscription required, unfortunately.)

Should Howard make it clear that he wants to leave Orlando when his contract expires, the Lakers will be a logical trade destination because of the bright lights of L.A. and their ability to offer Andrew Bynum to the Magic. In the long run, making Howard the latest superstar center to wear Forum blue and gold would be a way for the Lakers to prepare for a future in which Kobe Bryant is no longer the team’s go-to player. Still, the transition would be painful in the short term, depending on what the Lakers had to deal in such a scenario.

Behind Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, post depth has long been a weakness for the Lakers. To get Howard, they’d likely have to surrender two of their three stalwarts. The Lakers have been able to survive for stretches without Bynum by playing Gasol and Odom heavy minutes, but that has taken its toll over time and going with just two reliable big men for an entire season would be difficult.

There’s a saying… don’t cut off your nose to spite your face. And that’s exactly what the Lakers would be doing if they did not seize the opportunity to trade for Dwight Howard, whether it costs some combination of Bynum, Gasol or Odom or not.

Howard represents a life after Kobe for the Lakers and giving up front court depth is a small price to play for that long-term positioning. Bynum would almost surely be involved in any potential deal for Howard, so the question is whether or not it’s worth giving up Gasol or Odom to get the Magic to bite. To me, that’s a no-brainer. Make the deal and then sign someone like Kurt Thomas to backup your big men.

Depth on the front line is hard to come by but so are bona fide franchise centers. Do the deal.

Where do the Magic, Hornets and Blazers go from here?

Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard (R) and Orlando Magic shooting guard J.J. Redick (L) react after an Atlanta Hawks basket late in the second half of their NBA Eastern Conference Game 6 basketball playoffs at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia April 28, 2011. The Atlanta Hawks won the game. REUTERS/David Tulis (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

It was a Graduation Night of sorts as three teams closed out their respective series instead of letting things go to a Game 7.

Hawks 84, Magic 81
Joe Johnson (23 points) and Jamal Crawford (19) led the way for the Hawks, who shot just just 39% from the field (to the Magic’s 43%), but still managed to win due to three extra three-pointers and seven more offensive rebounds. Dwight Howard had 25 points, 15 rebounds, three blocks and six turnovers. He averaged 5.5 turnovers against the Hawks, which is way too many for any player, especially a big man.

Where do the Magic go from here? Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Wasn’t it just two years ago that Orlando was an up-and-coming team giving the Lakers a good run in the NBA Finals? Pay attention, kids. This is what trading for Vince Carter (and then Gilbert Arenas) will do to you. Whatever mojo the Magic had is clearly gone and they could very well have their own Carmelo Anthony situation brewing with Dwight Howard scheduled to become a free agent after next season.

Lakers 98, Hornets 80
The Lakers enjoyed nice games from each of their top four players. Kobe (24 points), Pau Gasol (16 points, eight rebounds), Andrew Bynum (18 points, 12 rebounds) and Lamar Odom (14 points, eight rebounds) all played well, and when that happens, the Lakers are nearly impossible to beat. The difference in this game was on the glass, where the Lakers’ length outrebounded the Hornets by 13, including seven additional offensive rebounds. Offensive rebounds equal extra possessions, and extra possessions usually equal points.

Where do the Hornets go from here? I’ve been impressed with Chris Paul and the Hornets this season, and taking two games off the defending champs without your second best player (David West) is not an easy feat. That said, Paul is probably going to become a free agent after next season, so the Hornets will have to re-sign West at an injury discount and find a bona fide shooting guard soon, because Marco Bellineli isn’t going to cut it. (He was serviceable during the season, but had a dreadful series shooting the ball.) There is the makings of a contender here, but to convince CP3 to re-up, the Hornets need West to return to form and they need to land a really good perimeter scorer, and those aren’t easy to find.

Mavericks 103, Blazers 96
Many pundits, including myself, picked the Blazers in this series and it just didn’t happen. The Mavs shrugged off the Game 4 debacle and showed some grit by winning both Game 5 and Game 6 to close out the series. Dirk Nowitzki led the way with 33 points (on 11-of-17 shooting, highly efficient) to go along with 11 rebounds. Shawn Marion (16 points, six rebounds) has been playing well lately, averaging 14 points over the last three games. He’s the X-factor for the Mavs.

Where do the Blazers go from here? Portland has a nice team, but they’re never going to get over the hump with this lineup, largely because Brandon Roy’s knees aren’t healthy enough to get them there. He has four more $15 M+ years on his contract and if he doesn’t somehow get back to form soon, that deal is destined to hamstring the franchise. Portland should be building around LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and maybe Gerald Wallace, so they really need to strike gold by finding a Ty Lawson-type point guard in the late first round of the draft. Kemba Walker is that kind of player, but he’ll probably be long gone by the time the Blazers pick. Portland is in no man’s land (too good for the lottery, but not good enough to contend) and it looks like a long, hard road ahead. Roy’s contract is a great example of why guaranteed deals should be a max of 3-4 years.

Great Quotes: Stan Van Gundy

Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy had a few thoughts to share about the Miami Heat and how they are reacting to the scrutiny they’re under.

“I do chuckle a little bit when they sort of complain about the scrutiny when they get. My suggestion would be if you don’t want the scrutiny, you don’t hold a championship celebration before you’ve even practiced together. It’s hard to go out yourself and invite that kind of crowd and celebration and attention, and then when things aren’t going well, sort of bemoan the fact that you’re getting that attention. To me, that doesn’t follow.”

Stan Van Gundy

The Heat’s summer celebration (after signing LeBron, Wade and Bosh) raised more than a few eyebrows around the league. I’m sure the players and franchise just wanted to celebrate the fact that they signed all three players, but it clearly didn’t go over very well outside of South Florida.

It is funny that anyone in their position would be surprised at the attention the team is getting. Of course the team is going to be under heavy scrutiny after the summer it had. And when you lose four games in a row, that attention isn’t going to be positive. Man up.

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