“This is the way the Dwightmare ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.”
- Something TS Eliot would say about the Orlando Magic’s Front Office
Let me preface this entire rant by saying the next few hundred words I’m about to spout have nothing to do with my disappointment over the fact that the Nets did not get Dwight Howard. Quite frankly, I moved on from that idea way back in March when Howard impulsively waived his ETO in exchange for a bowl of candy. All trade chatter last month seemed to be an exercise in futility. Because, as evidenced by the trade that eventually went down last night, it was abundantly clear that the Orlando front office was just never going to play ball with Billy King and the Nets.
So consider this post a big middle finger to all of the people who were praising the poor, poor, Orlando front office who were heroically defending their castle against the suddenly big, bad, big market, free-spending Brooklyn Nets. Because your endless kvetching and hand-wringing and mockery of Brook Lopez’s rebound rate has left you with this result: the Lakers are suddenly unquestionably dominant again in a way that would even make the Heatles blush, and the Magic are going to rebuild around an average, defensive-minded wing player, a bad contract in Al Harrington, and an assortment of highly protected first-round and second round draft picks. Let’s all praise Rob Hennigan for avoiding a “max” contract for Brook Lopez, even though as frequent Billy King critic John Hollinger admitted last night: “Suddenly, overpaying Brook Lopez doesn't sound so bad.”
Do I think what the Nets were offering was a better package than what the Magic inevitably got? I’m biased, but naturally I say, yes. The Magic obviously could have received their best haul last winter when they passed on a non-max Lopez, Gerald Wallace and a boatload of draft picks all while shedding some of their most toxic contracts. But even what the Nets were offering last month seems more appealing in retrospect – at least compared to Arron Afflalo, Harrington, Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless, and three protected first-round picks, all while only unloading Jason Richardson and (maybe) Chris Duhon. Getting Harrington back in the deal is essentially a wash for unloading Richardson and Afflalo is a nice piece to bring in once you have a core of above average players to build around, but beyond that, I honestly can’t wrap my head around this deal and how THIS is what Hennigan was holding out for. He couldn’t even convince the Lakers to throw in Pau Gasol so the Magic could pretend that they wanted to be competitive for another year or two. So I guess the strategy is to just tank for a few years and hope the next Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook fall into your laps. I still don’t understand how having an under-25 7-footer with a polished offensive game who with proper coaching and motivation could become a more well-rounded center would have prevented the Magic from employing the tanking strategy anyway. And at least with Lopez, if they develop him right, the organization could have had another asset to flip in a year or two.
But I digress, because this is sounding more and more like sour grapes. Let me get back to my original thesis here, which is that Hennigan and moreso, Magic owner Rich Devos were NEVER going to agree a trade with the Nets, regardless of the package. As earlier mentioned, the original offer from the Nets in December appeared to be the best for Orlando in terms of providing long-term flexibility and draft picks, but that entire deal was scuttled by an owner who a week or so earlier floated a bogus tampering charge against Mikhail Prokhorov. And quite frankly, based on the chain reaction of events that have followed over the past six months, it appeared that the Magic front office never got over the fact that Dwight and Deron Williams allegedly conspired to team up and that Mikhail Prokhorov was showering Howard with rides on his private jet. So when the Magic were faced with having to trade Dwight to the Nets again at last season’s deadline, we had the alleged “blackmail” deal go down (and yes, there’s plenty of shame to lay on Howard here for reportedly waiving his right to free agency because he didn’t want to get traded somewhere else), followed by round three of the Dwightmare last month where the Magic had the Nets jump through hoops to try to find a third or fourth team to take on Kris Humphries and MarShon Brooks and then inevitably floated the idea that teams in the league were unwilling to facilitate because they didn’t want to build another “superteam” in the NBA.
So instead, the Magic have seemingly agreed to a deal that gives them a worse player and contract than Humphries in Harrington, they facilitated a way for the best young asset in the whole transaction in Andrew Bynum to end up with an Eastern Conference competitor in the Sixers, and they found two teams in Denver and Philly who had no qualms about the Lakers sporting a team that will feature Kobe, Nash, Gasol and Dwight. Sounds like Hennigan really hit a home run here. But don’t worry, Brook Lopez still can’t rebound so if that’s going to make all of you sleep better at night for ripping apart the Nets deal for months, then more power to you. In the meantime, I’m getting ready to suffer through Lakers-Heat in the Finals for the next (not one, not two, not three...) years.