So while Magic general manager Otis Smith hasn’t found the deal that makes sense for Howard up to this point, now’s probably a good time to get the ball rolling on that or risk losing Howard as a free agent with little to no compensation.
Of course, there is the chance that Howard will have yet another change of heart and decide to sign a long-term contract to keep him in Orlando, but can the Magic really take the chance?
According to TNT’s Craig Sager during last night’s All-Star Game, Howard’s own mother said she wants him to stay in Orlando, but it would be hard for the Magic not to make a move based on the opinion of Howard’s mother.
Forget everything that’s happened in the past with the entire Howard saga. Looking at it from strictly a basketball perspective, it makes sense to deal Howard now on a couple of conditions.
First of all, Smith has to know he’s not going to get fair value in exchange for Howard. It’s just not possible.
Remember, the goal in Orlando is to win a championship and not just make the playoffs.
Howard surrounded by a collection of role players isn’t going to get it done. If Smith is convinced he can rebuild the team with some cap room, a couple of draft picks and a couple of parts, it’s the move they have to make.
While I’m sure the goal is to still get Howard to sign in Orlando, giving him a max deal now does nothing to improve the team. By the time some bad contracts are off the books, Howard would be halfway through his five-year deal before the Magic can seriously think about improving.
Then what? Do the Magic have to go through this all again two years after that?
Orlando can’t afford to let him walk and get nothing in return.
Of course, there is the possibility a good offer doesn’t come along, and in that case, Smith has to take the risk.
Smith is in a tough spot given Howard’s short list of teams.
The Lakers appear to be out, and with concerns over Andrew Bynum’s knee, he’s a risky proposition for Orlando in the future, and there really isn’t much in Los Angeles right now to help Orlando rebuild quickly.
Dallas? No chance at a trade there. They have nothing to offer.
That leaves New Jersey, who can at least help the Magic by offering picks and taking back a bad contract. But do the Magic really want to build around a guy like Brook Lopez, who is also coming off surgery?
This puts Smith in an almost impossible spot.
He can’t get a good deal for Howard, and if he walks as a free agent, Smith is probably out of a job.
That’s why he must try and deal Howard soon.
It makes sense basketball-wise, but the right deal is very unlikely to come around.
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