Howard could end speculation … if he wants

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“Y does it seem like the writers of Orlando sentinel are tryna push me out of Orlando with dumb articles. It’s annoying. Can I enjoy my summer and get ready for next season in Orlando. Pls. Same thing u guys did to Shaq. Smh”

The Magic’s Dwight Howard is apparently a bit cranky at the Orlando Sentinel over the paper’s speculation that the Lakers might want to trade for him, now that both teams are eliminated and the star center is about 14 months away from becoming one of the three crown jewels of the 2012 free-agent market.

Dwight Howard thinks the Orlando media are trying to run him out of town, just like they allegedly did to Shaq. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Sorry, Dwight. Sure, the Sentinel is trolling for mouse-clicks with things like its “interactive graphic” allowing users to create images of Howard wearing various enemy jerseys. And, yes, the Sentinel‘s Brian Schmitz (who does a wonderful job) wrote a post Monday afternoon speculating about various Lakers trade packages for Howard.

Two things stand out here:

1) Schmitz’s post is no different from dozens of other reports, sourced and unsourced, at publications large and small, discussing Howard’s upcoming free agency, the Magic’s capped-out roster and the small number of teams that are set with either the future cap room to sign Howard or the assets to pull off a deal the Magic might accept. For Howard to single out the Sentinel is weird and strikes me as a calculated bit of pandering designed to win over fans who remember how the paper allegedly ran Shaquille O’Neal out of Orlando.

2) Howard can sign an extension now if he wants. Over the past six months or so, Howard first denied that the collective bargaining agreement even allowed him to sign an extension. When it became clear he was wrong on that count, Howard shifted his strategy to one of denying that the Magic had offered him an extension. Problem is, Magic GM Otis Smith has said the team “approached” Howard with a two-year extension — the longest deal the Defensive Player of the Year can sign before July 1. Howard, meanwhile, continues to insist that he hasn’t “seen” an extension.

As I’ve written before, there are semantic loopholes that make it possible both sides are telling the truth. Perhaps the Magic have “approached” Howard (or his agent) about an extension, but Howard has not yet “seen” a completed contract offer in writing. But I’m confident in this: If Smith is saying publicly that he has “approached” Howard about a two-year extension, then the player at the very least knows he could get a deal done now if he wanted. It’s fine if he doesn’t want to do that. He has a right to want to play elsewhere, particularly given the state of the Magic’s roster, and he also has the right to wait until after July 1, when (under current rules, which may not apply then) he could sign a three-year extension instead of a two-year deal.

Howard is under no obligation to the Magic or their fans. But if he doesn’t sign an extension now — when it’s on the table — then he has to accept the speculation that comes with that decision. Howard should understand this, since we all just witnessed Carmelo Anthony deal with around-the-clock chatter about his future after he declined to sign an extension in Denver.

Howard can blame the media if he likes, but the “where will he go?” talk is the inevitable result of the league’s player-movement system and his place within it. It is the price of his talent and his riches.

  • Published On 12:22pm, May 10, 2011
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