In case the NBA lockout had let you forget, Dwight Howard is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in 2012, meaning that the Orlando Magic have less than a year to convince him to sign an extension or new contract. Understandably, Magic fans are terrified. Understandably, big-market fans (Lakers, Nets, Knicks) are licking their chops.
Howard's comments to Scott Raab in the latest issue of Esquire are going to fuel the Hades into those fires.
SR: Do you think that the drive to represent, on an iconic level, will be a factor in your free agency? Do you see yourself in a much larger market?
DH: There's more you can do in a bigger place. I'm stuck in a tough position because I feel like right now, where I'm at, I've done so much. And I just don't know what else I can do. I can't live for everybody else. I don't know what decision I'm gonna make as of right now. It's been crazy. Everybody wants me to come here, come play here, come to our team, do this. It's a great feeling, though, to be wanted.
SR: You're gone. I can feel it.
DH: The toughest part for me is the city - the people. They've got burgers named after me in Orlando, they've got a Web site saying, "Please stay." I love the people in the city. I've literally sat on the bench with a towel on my head crying, because I feel the passion in the stands. I just think about what's going to be best for what I want to accomplish in my life. And I don't want that door to close on me, wherever that door is. I don't want it to close.
That's just brutal. I'm sorry, Orlando.
While the Denver Nuggets arguably came out ahead in trading Carmelo Anthony in a similar situation last year, and while the Utah Jazz did well for themselves in pulling Derrick Favors and the pick that became Enes Kanter, Howard's a different level of superstar. He's an eternal MVP candidate, the best defender of his generation and the most efficient 20-point scorer in the game. The Howard narrative is playing out so similarly to that of the Orlando version of Shaquille O'Neal it is almost sickening.