Earlier this month when Dwight Howard flew in to Toronto as a member of the Orlando Magic, many probably thought it might be for the last time as member of the Magic. The NBA Trade Deadline was looming and most experts felt the Magic had no choice but to trade their star. This based on what happened here in Toronto with Chris Bosh and in Cleveland with Lebron James. Those moves to create the Big 3 in Miami changed the landscape of the NBA perhaps forever. Despite a new CBA not much had changed in terms of teams being able to maintain their stars. There was talk of some type of franchise tag being part of that deal but it never materialized. Long before the Raptors lost Chris Bosh or even Vince Carter, the Magic lost Shaq to the L.A Lakers. This was more a case of deja vu for people in Orlando. Would they go the root the Utah Jazz who decided to learn from the mistakes of Toronto and Cleveland and traded their star point guard Deron Williams to the Nets. That seemed to be the popular conventional wisdom and it was the same root the Denver Nuggets would take in trading Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks. I think it is safe to say the Jazz and Nuggets are in far better shape than the Cavs and Raptors currently.
Many speculate as to why Dwight wanted to leave in the first place. Orlando had been to The Finals and have done like the Cavs and Raptors and tried to build a team around him. However, the blunders of Otis Smith especially recently in acquiring Gilbert Arenas and bringing back Hedo Turkoglu. Many feel that Howard has not been thrilled with Otis Smith's performance and that is something he shares with Orlando fans actually. Some also wonder in Stan Van Gundy and his rather gruff approach was part of the reason as well. Howard in the past had even made comments about the fact Van Gundy was always so negative and he had encouraged him to be more positive with the team. Not sure how successful that has been. Dwight was complicating the issue by it seemed at times almost daily changing his mind on the topic of if he wanted to stay or go from Orlando. Howard genuinely seems to love the fans in Orlando but also seems utterly unimpressed with management. I would venture to say Dwight cares more for the people in Orlando than Bosh does for people here in Toronto or James does for the people in Cleveland. Dwight seemed to want a way to leave Orlando and still be the good and fun loving guy that people love. He had seen how Lebron James was turned from super hero to super villain. What Howard could seem to understand was you can not make everyone happy and still do what you want and feel what is right for you.
So, the Magic had option A to trade Howard or option B, which was to gamble like the Raptors and Cavs did and risk being left with nothing as the franchise was when Shaq left for L.A as a free agent. In the end the managed to come up with an option C that saw Howard forgo his opportunity to become a free agent this some and agree to accept his player option for next season. They basically have postponed what might in fact be the inevitability of Howard leaving for at least a year. It seems pretty clear the Magic are not going to come anywhere close to winning a championship this season. Chicago recently dismantled the Magic and not even Superman is enough to beat the Big 3 down south in Miami. The Magic are not going to get any closer to a championship this year. Which is what this is all about for Howard. You wonder how things might be different if the Magic were able to defeat the Lakers for the lone NBA Finals Dwight Howard has made.
Raptor fans tend to wallow about how superstars have left here. Some believing it is all about Canada and take it as personal insult. There is a lesson in all of this for the Raptor fans. Orlando does not have the weather issue of Toronto. It is often brought up about the high taxes here in Canada for players. Well Orlando last I checked is the state of Florida which has no tax on income just like the same advantage the Miami Heat enjoy. At the end of the day you can come up with a million excuses as to why people leave Toronto. Ultimately it is no different than why they would leave Orlando, Milwaukee, Sacramento, Minnesota and many other teams. It comes down to to fundamental things. The first is fairly obvious and that is winning and having a player buy into the belief he can win a Championship with that organization. The second is not as obvious but it is about power. Vince Carter left in part because he was unhappy with the choice of Rob Babcock as G.M of the Raptors. He had his own person in mind that being Dr.J. While Carter was clearly right about Babcock there is no evidence to suggest his choice was right either. No NBA team has hired the NBA Legend since. I am unaware if he has even interviewed for an open position since than. That is just one example of a player wanting to have power. Now players and agents would spin what I am calling power into the word input. Whatever you care to call it most players want it. Notice the topic of money never came up. The truth is after a certain point the superstars in this league have made more than enough money. Money is something the guys on the lower ends of the food chain to worry about.
It is important to understand that lots of markets have their problems. None that can't be over come by that magic tonic that is winning. There is no doubt the Raptors have some of the most unique problems of any franchise in some ways but it is not like other teams don't have their issues as well. That brings me to a topic from the game against the Bulls. Which was a fantastic basketball game. Still instead of focusing on the fact the better team won and it was a great effort, it was a lot of Raptor fans blaming the refs. It was those same Refs that kicked out one of the Bulls best players halfway through the game. It was those refs that gave the Raptors 4 free throws that they made one of at the end of OT. Every team from time to time feels they don't get a fair shake from the refs it is not unique to fans in just Toronto. Can we just once say are guys played good and the other guys played better and we lost a close one.
Also this has nothing to do with taking on the Magic but a good example of why tanking is a guarantee of nothing with what went on in Atlanta. Anthony Davis most people believe is the number one pick in the upcoming draft. He got injured in his teams battle with Baylor. It looked serious at first, but he would return and play in the game still flavoring the knee his injured. However, you are always within the blink of an eye of everything changing. So to waste an entire season all with the goal to land on specific player is always one serious injury away from getting nothing. It is also why I will always support any college player that wants to leave school as soon as possible. Kentucky was never going to give Anthony Davis millions of dollars he would get in the draft if he were to go down and lose his basketball career. It is not to say Kentucky doesn't have the millions to do it, that is just how the NCAA works. Charles Barkley once famously said that college football and basketball were the last forms of legalized for of slavery in America. While that does come off as outlandish it is not that far from the truth. Also the Magic are a classic example of why you can never truly have faith in the NBA Lottery. They won back to back lottery's and the second time they had a less than 2% chance of winning.
As for the game itself? It is the same old story. Find a way to stop Dwight and if you can do that you have to find a way to guard the perimeter on defense with all their shooters. The Raptors and Magic once had a rivalry primarily based on players leaving Toronto. First there was Tracy McGrady that went directly to Orlando and then there was Vince who went via New Jersey and was traded to Magic eventually. There is no longer that buzz anymore. Not even the friendship between Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard that produced some of both guys best games of their careers. Dwight is taking a longer path than Bosh did in leaving Toronto but if anyone thinks he is going to be in Orlando long term you are fooling yourself. Just like Dwight is if he thinks giving the Magic an extra year is going to make his exit out of town any easier next season. Ask people that still boo T-Mac and Vince about how it works when you leave town. Fans get emotionally invested in players and even if you hear it 10,000 times that sports is a business for fans it never is. It is almost always personal.
So I am off to Toronto to cover this game. I was convinced Dwight Howard would be gone but I would still get a chance to see Stan Van Gundy as he was going to still be around. As it turns out both will be. As for the Raptors it will be interesting to see if both DeRozan and Bayless are able to play. Calderon would love to see Bayless are being pushed to limit there last two games with huge minutes. While DeRozan had been playing some of his best basketball of this season in the last 4 games. So will talk with you tomorrow with thoughts on this one.