With the end of the Dwight Howard saga, we now turn our attention back to basketb-- yeah right. We still have two and a half months before basketball that counts. We're not paying attention to basketball yet. With the end of the Dwight Howard saga, we now turn our attention (and anxiety) toward figuring out who might offer our next great off-court saga. It's time to suss out who will be the next Dwight Howard.
There are specific ingredients needed to create a Dwight Howard. The player must be really, really good. If it's a boring player, then it just turns into Mickael Pietrus complaining to the equipment manager, and that's just sad. The team must also not be particularly glamorous, so the Lakers, Knicks, Nets, Heat and Bulls are out. (The Bulls aren't exactly glamorous, but they get the job done.) And finally, the player needs to be approaching unrestricted free agency on some reasonable timeframe. The typical lead time on one of these sagas is one year, based on the Carmelo Anthony (aka Melodrama), Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Dwight Howard scenarios. (When I say Deron Williams, I mean the Nets version.) Players currently on their rookie deals -- Brandon Jennings, DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall -- are ineligible because unrestricted free agency is a long ways away.
So who are the candidates?
Credentials: Two All-Star appearances, one All-NBA team, sixth place in 2011-12 MVP voting.
Can hit free agency in: 2015
Saga could begin in: 2014
Potential saga nicknames: Love Will Tear Us Apart, Lovefool, Minnepocalypse, Kevtastrophe
Love famously signed a four-year max extension with an opt-out after Year 3 -- pretty much the opposite of what most teams with star players want to do. Such is the way of David Kahn, who giveth and taketh at record speeds. Love can start making reasonable threats two years from now, but chances are that Minnesota will have improved enough to squelch all of that.
Of course, the Magic were pretty darned good, and Dwight still had wandering eyes. Orlando made the Finals in 2009, and Howard made his intentions (momentarily) clear in 2011. It would be more difficult for Love to let his heart abandon Timberwolves fans as they make the rise to prominence, but don't underrate the bad blood between the player and his general manager. Also, if the 2008 Olympics led to The Heatles, pay close attention to the Thunder's cap machinations leading up to 2015. Russell Westbrook is a tricky little man.
Likelihood of Kevtastrophe: small.
Credentials: Five-time All-Star, four All-NBA teams, three top-5 MVP finishes.
Can hit free agency in: 2013 (gulp!)
Saga could begin: yesterday
Potential saga nicknames: ChrisPaulcalypse, CP3NOOOOOO
CP3 has the rare opportunity for the double saga: he's already had one saga in free agency, leading to his trade to the Clippers. He didn't reach free agency because he opted in for the final year on his contract. But he hasn't signed an extension with L.A., either. Two sagas, one free agent period. Is there nothing CP3 can't do?
There may not actually be a saga here: Paul hasn't indicated that he wants the Clips to trade him to the Knicks or anything, and one of the point guard's other previous teams of choice (the Lakers) picked up Steve Nash, ending that flirtation. Assuming CP3 doesn't pick a new team to love over the next few weeks, this is a saga that could only be born as the trade deadline approaches, and only if the Clippers fail. So long as CP3 is playing and Blake Griffin is back on the court fairly quickly, that won't happen.
This isn't to say CP3 will definitely re-sign with the Clippers in July. But the likelihood of him trying to escape before then seems low.
Likelihood of ChrisPaulcalypse: Slim.
Credentials: One All-Star appearance, one all-NBA team.
Can hit free agency in: 2015
Saga could begin in: 2014
Potential saga nicknames: Fail Blazers, LaMarcalypse, LMAO.
Like Love, we're a few years away over here. The concern in Portland is that while Aldridge continues to improve, the Blazers are not in position to capitalize. They kept Nicolas Batum and drafted really well (Damian Lillard, I'm a believer!), but this team is pretty far away from contending in the stacked West. In two years, when LMA has a year to go before free agency, he'll be 29 years old. It'll take some brand of Luke Babbitt infused miracle for Portland to be a legit contender by then.
So I could see Aldridge's eyes straying.
This isn't like Love in Minnesota, where this is the team's first rise in a decade. LMA has been to the playoffs. He's seen Portland at its rowdiest. He's given those years to Portland, and because of his age, I think he might be more willing to walk away.
It's a long way off, but ...
Likelihood of LaMarcalypse: decent.
Credentials: One All-Star apperance, one all-NBA team.
Can hit free agency in: 2013 (!)
Saga could begin: once Bynum wakes up from annual hibernation.
Potential saga nicknames: Andrew Whineum, Drewsaster.
Yes, that's right: the resolution of the Dwightmare may have created the Drewsaster. Bynum hasn't said anything about signing an extension with the 76ers yet; if he doesn't, he can become a free agent in 11 months. If he won't sign the extension, could Philadelphia be convinced to trade him to a team of his choice in order to get something out of the Andre Iguodala deal? Remember, Philly also gave up Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless. Losing three assets and being unable to retain or get another for the single piece coming back would be a disaster ... a Drewsaster.
For Philadelphia's sake, I hope Bynum inks a new deal quickly and puts this to bed. But, uh ... yeah. Counting on Andrew Bynum to do anything the easy way is a fool's game.
Likelihood of Drewsaster: moderate.
The Hook is a daily NBA column by Tom Ziller. See the archives.