Some Final-ish Ruminations on Dwight Howard

See you next year, Dwight Howard rumors.

One of the first things I ever wrote on this blog was 5,500 words of an inner monologue between the half of me that preferred the Nets draft DeMarcus Cousins and the half that preferred Derrick Favors. I agonized over those two players all the way up until the draft, and frankly, still do. Cousins has the type of size-and-skill combination that comes along maybe once per decade, but has to fight his biggest demon (himself) every day. Favors’ motor and aggressiveness have come under serious fire since his first day in the league — hell, just today Billy King made reference to him as a player that didn’t pan out — and while he’s got the type of NBA body and touch at the rim that makes scouts drool, he’s unable to make a leap into excellence.

I preferred Cousins before I preferred Favors before I preferred Cousins before I preferred Favors. And that was just on the day that article was posted. It was as close as close gets, and Nets fans — like myself — seemed divided sharply into the two factions. Luckily, I had my utter lack of epiphany that led to my open self-dialogue in the privacy of my home and my brain.

In the 24 hours preceding the NBA trade deadline, there were roughly (I’m estimating here) 19 bajillion contradicting reports about Dwight Howard and the self-imposed decision to waive or not waive his early termination option. If he didn’t waive it, the team was ready to trade Howard, likely to the Nets; if he did, he’d stay one more season in Orlando, and thus spurn the advances of 29 franchises who’d certainly appreciate his services.

Nets fans personally invested themselves in Dwight’s future. To too many, Dwight was already a Net, the team was already in Brooklyn, and the imagined Deron/Dwight pick-and-roll had already erased the sting of loss after loss with the former (current) roster. They were an instant contender, a dominating, perhaps unprecedented point guard-big man duo. Now? Those that went out of their way to claim Howard was a guarantee are now scrambling to root for the players they’d already forgotten. Brook Lopez? Go, guy we desperately tried to replace! Jordan Farmar? Back up that player who guaranteed he’ll opt out with pride! Gerald Wallace? Welcome to New Jersey, not Orlando!

Here we are, as Lopez once said with tongue firmly planted in cheek, “living on another day.” If anything, the past two days re-affirmed that in the NBA, done deals are never done deals until they’re done deals.

The investment wasn’t just personal, but financial. Howard’s surrounded by people who stood to make millions off his decision to eschew loyalty; as a result, we heard differing stories on Dwight constantly as the words “anonymous” and “close to the situation” began their on-again off-again relationship with “sources.”

If Dan Fegan could’ve made $10 million off me choosing Favors over Cousins, you’d have heard reports about my brain on a nightly basis. “Source: Kharpertian now choosing Favors. Calipari livid, vows never to read blog again.”

Dwight Howard has never been a member of the New Jersey Nets. He, since he was drafted in 2004, has played for and represented the Orlando Magic. He led the Magic to five playoff appearances and one Finals appearance in his first seven seasons, and led the Nets to zero. He has every right to choose temporary loyalty over legacy, and every right to waft on that decision until he makes one. Agonizing? Sure, but my stomach’s not his concern.

Poet Taylor Mali once remarked that changing your mind is the best way of figuring out whether or not you still have one. I agreed with him then, and I do now, regardless of the fact that it interferes with my preferences.

What confuses me, above all else, is that Howard, seemingly unable to make said decision, made the only solid, personal, active decision on the table. Getting traded? That’s on Otis Smith. Staying the season? That’s a stall, giving him more time to decide later. But waiving the ETO? That’s Dwight’s call, and only to suspend time. There was no requirement to “opt in” for next season before the trade deadline, he just… did. It was an oddly decisive move for someone who had explored his options so vastly in the previous day alone.

“Decisive” is by no means “final.” He doesn’t have any more ETO’s to waive. He added a semicolon; not an exclamation point! Doing so this year only guarantees that this dance lasts one season longer. He’s committed to the franchise that raised him, but as he’s said, with a deadline: the summer of 2013. We don’t need sources to confirm that the Dwightmare will return.