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Deadline dealing: How Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, and one big move (or failed one) can alter the NBA’s power structure

Deadline dealing: How Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, and one big move (or failed one) can alter the NBA’s power structure

SCOTT JACOBS

The short term and possibly long term future of NBA franchises hang in the balance.  Reload or rebuild. Take a chance or blow it up and start anew.

Dwight Howard is available.  Rajon Rondo is being dangled as trade bait.  The Lakers already tried to ship Pau Gasol out of town but David Stern had other plans. These guys must be sitting there in their workout rooms, with their dumbbells and maybe even their boxing equipment, ready to take out their fluid uncertainty onto something.

While suspense movies are a popular genre, generally the people in them, don’t exactly lust for the question mark that is their fate as they bounce around room to room not knowing whose behind the next door or behind them for that matter.

Howard has asked for a trade, even giving the Magic a list of teams he’d like to be dealt to, but Orlando has yet to oblige to their superstar’s wishes. Instead Orlando is trying to deal for another guard or wing guy to pair with Superman, to convince the larger than life defensive monster to stay.

The Magic don’t want to slip into irrelevance after being one of the NBA’s contenders for the past 5 or so years. They don’t want to go from talked about title contenders to playoff-locks to lottery-locked.  And if they trade Dwight they want to get something they can build off of.  They want picks, players, and they most desire another marquee name to sell tickets.

But really, they just want to keep Dwight.

Any trade they make of him, could blow up in their face, whether it be picks or salary crap contracts they might bring in. They certainly don’t want to be Detroit, where they unload the old guard (Chauncey Billups was the first domino to fall and then came Rip Hamilton, etc.), and end up with a bunch of over-priced mismatched nothing. It’s a tricky situation for the Magic who want to win, and believe they can bring a title to the city of magic with a little sly maneuvering.

But if Howard leaves and Orlando gets nothing, then the Magic end up with another Shaq like gap in their franchise, and it took a long time and a lot of mediocrity to land Dwight Howard. Or in laments terms, a fall to the very bottom to land the number 1 pick.

In this economy, with fans careful about how they spend, we’ve seen how trading your star can annihilate a fan base’s zeal. The Hornets dealt Chris Paul and the no name team they field on a nightly basis struggles to draw any kind of buzz in the Crescent City. While some cities like Portland are hard-core NBA towns no matter what, there are more cities that only show up for winners.  With D-Wade and no one else, the Heat were a middling team struggling to draw fans.  With LeBron, Bosh, and Wade Miami has sold out every game since.

So you have to have stars and you have to win if you want to stay afloat and in the limelight in the current economical landscape. The Nets know this, with their Brooklyn departure in 2012 their big chance to start over.  But really, they’re just hoping to have a machine in place, the dream scenario pairing Deron Williams with another star. The nightmare of course is Deron bolting a listless Nets team for a team like Dallas, or anyone else already winning right now.

The Suns were a hot ticket with their Seven Seconds or Less showcase and sold out games season after season. A number of bad personnel decisions later, and even with Steve Nash in tow, the Suns are a struggling franchise stuck in neutral, struggling to draw butts to the seats. They too have the difficult decision of whether they want to keep the 38 year old fan favorite or if they want to trade him while his value is still high. It’s certainly not a fun position to be in.

The Celtics are an iconic franchise with the most banners in the sport, but Danny Ainge realizes that their aging Big Three can no longer carry the load that led them to 2 NBA Finals appearance and one championship. While uber-popular and unbelievably successful as a unit, the demise of the Big Three has been swift, and as they currently stand, Boston would barely make the post-season if the season ended today. While potentially scary as a post-season spoiler, Boston is old and slow, and expecting them to make another title run is silly and short-sighted. Hence, their best asset, Rajon Rondo is up for grabs. While he can’t shoot, and he’s probably not a franchise player, Rondo has proven to be elusive, dynamic, and clutch. Anyone would take him.  But what is he worth?  That’s the question Boston is feeling out.

In this shortened season, this year’s trade-deadline isn’t so much about getting that extra piece, but it’s about figuring out the future. Do the Lakers believe they can win with their current cast of players, or is breaking the bank for someone new, the way to go?  Owner Jerry Buss is on record saying he’s not looking to up the ante on the team’s salary, so any move they make is likely to be some kind of swap of pseudo stars.  What is Pau Gasol worth?  Can he be the linchpin to a title team not linked to Kobe? Is trading him and Bynum worth it if you can get Dwight?

With so many big names’ status unknown with the deadline upcoming, it also leaves teams like Houston and Golden State in interesting positions. The Magic want Monta Ellis reportedly, but rumor has it that Golden State is trying to put together a package to get Howard. The Magic want to pair Howard with Ellis, so you can see why the math doesn’t add up. The Rockets are enamored with Gasol, and the Nets know they have to appease their star point guard or he’s off to the races with another team.

Bit players will be dealt, they always are, but their trade deadline could determine futures of franchises. The move you make (or don’t make) now could burn or boost your team for years to come. The Nets and Magic could end up with dynamic unstoppable duos, or empty-handed come season’s end. The pendulum could swing one way or another.

People forget that Miami could’ve been left at the altar had Wade left for New York or Chicago.  Bosh was only going if Wade was there, and LeBron was only going if both were locked in.  The Heat could’ve been New Orleans, star-less, young, and hoping for a high draft pick to rebuild.  They could have been Cleveland after LeBron left them.  But the balls bounced beautifully for the Heat who landed all 3, and in essence had a title team over night. Had the Suns gave in, and locked up Amar’e Stoudemire, despite his checkered injury past, maybe they too could be a limelight team.  Instead, they passed, choosing to fill the void with Hakim Warrick and more Channing Frye.  The Suns later traded for Marcin Gortat, a trade that led to the demise of Orlando’s title chances.

Had the Suns kept Amar’e, the Knicks don’t get him, and if New York doesn’t land that big star, they probably don’t draw Carmelo, and if they don’t draw Anthony, most likely Tyson Chandler stays in Dallas.  It’s a ripple effect in sports. One move can make a franchise.

That’s what makes this deadline so intriguing is the ramifications it has on everyone. Once one piece falls, the others will follow. The NBA’s power structure cold be staring at another restructuring.

So no pressure NBA general managers.

None, whatsoever.

Photo: AP

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sjacobs

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