Welcome to the hierarchy! For the Orlando Magic it’s back to the bottom; For the Lakers it’s another glorious future ahead
Only in sports (and show business) does one get rewarded for the type of buffoonery, selfishness, and ego driven actions that Dwight Howard has put on in front of the sports world.
After the end of a tedious and frustrating lockout Dwight began his not so private campaign to get traded, and roughly 8 months later, his wish was granted, as the Magic dealt their disgruntled cry baby superstar to the team that always finds an elite big man. Always!
In most places, Dwight would have been fired. But in sports, especially basketball, he ends up in a better situation, and in position to make a killing after he hits the free agent market this coming off-season.
Dwight Howard went from a beloved nearly iconic figure in Central Florida to villainous scum, the situation escalating so out of bounds that fans were ready to shove him out the door; Which isn’t to say that Magic management didn’t royally screw up either. They did.
But this story, this column, this sea of thoughts delves on Dwight, who went from Superman to super unbearable.
In less than a year, the NBA’s best center, and arguably it’s best defensive player, wrecked one franchise, set in motion a trade that greatly affected 4 NBA franchises, and landed with a team, now so loaded that it is probably the new favorite to win it all.
Only in sports, my friends.
In some ways I’m torn. Afterall, in most places of work, you can leave your job at any time for another one, especially if it’s a better opportunity. But most jobs don’t offer you a guaranteed contract and in exchange for the security, as athletes you give away your right to choose.
Until free agency.
But that old adage of team controlling player seems to be a blurry slapstick joke from another time, because stars now hold teams hostage. These stars have become too big, too power hungry, that they’re shifting the way sports work as we know it.
They’re cherry-picking teams before their contract runs out, mutilating what once was a leveled playing field (in terms of the trade market) into a trip to the candy store, where a player picks his favorite team.
Somehow, Los Angeles managed to get like 10 times better without giving up much of anything this offseason, with the lone exception the enigmatic, albeit talented Andrew Bynum. Steve Nash decided he wanted to don purple and gold, and Dwight had the Lakers as one of a few teams on his Christmas wish list.
The gap between the NBA and other sports in terms of balance of power is astounding. A few teams run the show, some franchises will poke their head in and out of the power structure from time to time, but for the most part, the pecking order is well established more soundly than any other sports league.
Teams might surprise, but rarely does a team of no-names jump to the top of the heap.
There is a hierarchy.
Teams like Milwaukee, Toronto, and Charlotte don’t have the luxury of being marquee NBA franchises with unlimited spending power. And even if they did, historically good players don’t choose to go there.
Somehow, teams like the Lakers and Celtics are almost always good, and somehow the Lakers always land a dominant once in a generation center.
Some think it’s fixed, that there’s a system in place which is designed to massage any troublesome spots LA goes through. Maybe the Lakers are a well-oiled, brilliantly run organization. Maybe they’re just lucky that teams like Orlando give away their best, for pennies on the dollar.
Maybe it will never be even.
Whatever the case, the NBA lockout which was supposedly a fight to level the playing field, has done nothing whatsoever.
Instead the rich have gotten richer, and the gap between the small markets and the big markets has seemingly widened.
The Heat didn’t do this when they signed their Big 3. Those guys wanted to play together. Trades have reshaped the way the game is played, because the tail is wagging the dog not the other way around.
And in a sport like basketball where only 5 guys can take the court at a given time, one superstar can and usually will make a difference. Now that the Lakers have 4 of them and 1 former star, they’re set to be great, barring injury.
As for the Magic, victims of a maxed out locale and a player whose ego grew too large for the town that loved him so, they’re back to the starting line, staring down a rebuilding project that could be Penn State-esque long.
That’s how it goes in the NBA.
A few teams rule the roost, and the rest look for scraps. Hard to believe just a few seasons ago these 2 teams met on the court to decide a title. This week, they ran into each other once more, only this time, they were going in completely opposite directions.
One to the stars; The other to the bottom.
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