Friday, August 10, 2012

McMullen: The 'Dwightmare' is over for now

The Dwightmare on Church Street is
finally over.

After a year of drama which made LeBron James' "Decision" look quaint in
comparison, the credits finally rolled on Orlando's personal horror movie on
Friday when Magic general manager Rob Hennigan finalized a four-team
blockbuster, which sent disgruntled superstar Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles
Lakers.

The trade, which featured three different All-Stars, ended up with the .
rich getting richer as the Lakers snagged the three-time NBA Defensive Player
of the Year as well as Orlando point guard Chris Duhon and Magic forward Earl
Clark.

Orlando and Hennigan received a haul which included Denver guard Arron
Afflalo, Lakers forward Josh McRoberts, Nuggets forward Al Harrington,
Philadelphia small forward Moe Harkless, Sixers center Nikola Vucevic, three
future protected first-round picks, as well as a second-round pick from
Denver.

Philadelphia, meanwhile, snared Lakers All-Star center Andrew Bynum and
Orlando veteran swingman Jason Richardson; while the Nuggets got Sixers
defensive stalwart and Olympian Andre Iguodala.

The Magic, of course, have been a legitimate NBA contender since Howard
developed into perhaps the game's most dominant big man, topping out with
a Finals berth in 2008-09 before succumbing to the Lakers.

Despite being ever so close to capturing the game's ultimate prize, at some
point Howard decided winning an NBA title in Central Florida was going to be
impossible, especially with a coach, Stan Van Gundy, he disdained and a
general manager, Otis Smith, he felt didn't do enough to surround him with a
championship-level supporting cast.

Back in May, Van Gundy was relieved of his duties, and Smith "mutually parted
ways with the organization." Everything was done with an eye on keeping D-12
in the Sunshine State but Howard remained steadfast in telling Hennigan that
Orlando was no longer an option.

Hennigan, the youngest GM in the NBA, understood the eventual end game but
wavered, loathe to make a major mistake in what will likely be regarded as his
most significant personnel move even if he spends the next 30 years in the
league.

Rumored trades to Brooklyn -- Howard's desired destination -- and Los Angeles
proved to be just that until the Lakers finally got it done by using the
Sixers and Nuggets as facilitators.

Orlando's days of contending are certainly over for the time being and
Hennigan's intent was to clear salary-cap space and rebuild through the draft,
although Afflalo is certainly a contributor and both Harkless and Vucevic have
some upside.

Case closed right?

While Howard is still set to become an unrestricted free agent after the
2012-13 season, the Lakers have secured his "Bird Rights" with the trade,
meaning LA can offer Howard a five-year contract with 7.5 percent annual
raises as opposed to a maximum of four years and 4.5 percent annual raises
from any other team. The same is true for the Sixers and Bynum, who is also
set to become a free agent.

That, along with the excitement of playing with players like Kobe Bryant, Pau
Gasol and Steve Nash, is probably enough to convince Howard that Southern
California should be his long-term home.

Bryant, who is currently playing for Team USA in the London Olympics, took to
his Facebook page to welcome Howard.

"Well, it looks like Superman has found a home," Bryant wrote. "The Lakers
have landed a piece that will hopefully carry the franchise long after I'm
gone. I have spoken to Dwight Howard, and we are locked and loaded to
hopefully bring back the title."

Like any good antagonist in a horror flick, however, Howard may want his
sequel and where better to stage it than Hollywood.

The big man has said time and time again that he would only sign a long-term
extension with Brooklyn and if he has proven anything during this ordeal, it's
that he's stubborn and headstrong.

"Dwightmare II" is still on the books for release in the summer of 2013.
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