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Is there any sports hero that has fallen further and faster than Dwight Howard in recent memory? A LOT of fans didn't like LeBron James pre-'The Decision.' A fall, but from lower in the airy pantheon of sports heroes. Jealous fellow golfers had instituted enough of a whisper campaign so that Tiger Woods backing into a monument and some garbage cans, and subsequently heading for divorce and a career swoon that might or might not be over, is maybe the closest analogy.
But everybody loved lovable Dwight Howard, the Man-Child in the Superman cape. He did some extraordinary things, but then shot free throws badly enough that he felt human. Human as in, WE could do 'that poorly,' and a LOT of us could do better. Not after being pounded on for 35 minutes by behemoths from other teams. But perception doesn't actually have to match reality. Dwight Howard smiled for the cameras. And women, children and even men swooned. We, the public, loved the public persona we were allowed to see.
Behind the scenes, of course, things were different. And in the last 11 months, we, the public, have seen just how different the man and the myth are. Dwight Howard has privately told the Orlando Magic that contract or not, he wanted to be traded. And he wanted to go where the Russian Rubles-turned-Dollars were flowing ... Brooklyn, New York. Heck, he'd even spend a few months playing for one of the worst teams in the league, in New Jersey, before moving to the part of New York City that Staten Islanders joke about. Dwight Howard didn't want to go ANYWHERE else, including places where they were serious about winning a title. He wanted to go to Brooklyn. Sooner than later. And if he didn't get his way, he would leave in a season's time.
All that would have been fine, 'cept he let his private betrayal of his team go public. And when THAT didn't work, he worked to undermine the team's coach, a difficult fellow in his own right, but a good man ultimately. He campaigned for a good coach to be fired. For the temerity of not kowtowing to he, THE Dwight Howard, sent down from the pantheon of basketball gods to lead the Brooklyn Nets to prominence again.
The impetus for this post was an article at Wages of Win Journal that asked whether Orlando OWED anything to Dwight Howard. The article leaned towards giving the big guy a big send-off, rather than kicking his keister to the curb. Dwight Howard HAD earned out his contract and then some. Orlando gave him all the money it could ... under league rules. It also allowed him to operate as a de facto GM, acquiring players that were friends or that caught his eye. Whatever Dwight Howard wanted. Orlando fulfilled more than just the letter of the contract it signed with Dwight Howard. It fulfilled the spirit and then some. Dwight Howard? Never learned to shoot free throws. Couldn't be on the court in crucial time at the end of the game because he couldn't (wouldn't?) learn to shoot free throws. Never developed much of an offensive game that he wasn't gifted by nature to begin with. And he cashed every cheque Orlando gave him and basked in the adulation of the public as a good guy hero.
So, why reward Dwight Howard at all. Orlando doesn't OWE him a damn thing. Period. He didn't carry his head high on the way out of town as so many have. See Nash, Steve for a recent example of how loyal behaviour actually begets loyalty, even to the departed. Dwight Howard?
The sentence that goes here was originally short and sweet. It included at least one word describing a sexual act and was intended to deliver my intent to have Dwight Howard regret his actions while being ... well, you know. I don't have to say it. This mental midget wants a new toy (that is, a new coach in a new town with a spigot of money that will flow his way, while 'other benefits' will accrue). Okay, that's doable if you are a free agent.
But Dwight Howard is NOT a free agent. He could have been. But in a blindingly awesome display of stupidity bordering on .... well, I can't think of any other stupider decision recently ... he GAVE UP HIS IMPEDING FREE AGENCY. Well, maybe not COMPLETELY stupid. He was still hoping Orlando would help him along by TRADING him to the Nets for pennies on the talent dollar so that he would get maximum pay from his new overlord (and I'm not talking about Watson the IBM computer). Traitorous, childish and greedy. Not the stuff heroes are made of, is it?
Of course, Dwight Howard doesn't want to appear to be the villain. He actually floated the theory he'd been blackmailed into declining his opt-out option (and wouldn't WE like to know what he was being blackmailed with) but did a u-turn on that one extra fast when it didn't gain any traction, save for derision.
Like any person not living and cheering for either Orlando or Brooklyn, I am sick and tired of Dwight Howard. He's become schadenfreude material of the first order and I can't but hope that bad things happens to him. Not negative life-altering things, but he's already got a bad back. Who's to say that isn't the karmic response to his shenanigans? And whoever in Brooklyn that has been shining light into his eyes at the expense of the actual GOOD teams in the NBA, maybe YOUR involvement in this turncoat creation is about to be visited upon you too.
Orlando doesn't owe Dwight Howard a damn thing. The Magic will trade him, likely to Brooklyn if the rumour mill is true. Then, like Cleveland in the post-James era, the team needs to get good enough to beat whatever team this tantrum-throwing child ends up. Frequently and when it counts. That's all. CERTAINLY nothing more. And it could have been a whole lot less.