It took 4 teams, 11 other players, 5 draft picks and numerous rounds of talks over many months, but the Magic decided that Friday was the appropriate time to start over without the NBA’s best center and end a saga that has devilled the franchise for what appears to be forever.
Howard is off to play alongside Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles, after a megadeal concerning the Lakers, Magic, Philadelphia and Denver was worked out and completed after the NBA reviewed and approved the particulars.
”It was just a very tough situation for everybody to let go,” Howard announced. ”I’m finally glad that it’s over with. Myself and the Magic organization, all of us can start over and begin a new career. Today is a fresh new start for all of us.’‘
As far as the other headliners concerned, Andrew Bynum leaves the Lakers for Philadelphia and Andre Iguodala is heading to Denver. Scores
”Are we taking a step backwards? Absolutely, we are,” Magic GM Rob Hennigan said. ”But we’re taking a step back with a vision.’‘
Howard, who might not be ready for the start of the season while continuing to recover from back surgery he had performed in L.A 4 months back, plans to become a free agent next July.
He could stay with the Lakers. He could end up in Dallas, which should have oodles of cap space. Perhaps the Brooklyn Nets – one of Howard’s preferred destinations through this saga – find a way into the mix again.
After an offseason when the Magic fired Coach Stan Van Gundy and GM Otis Smith, they’re now actually beginning anew.
In 1996, the Magic watched Shaquille O’Neal sign as a free agent with the Los Angeles Lakers. At least this time, when they lost someone with the “Superman” nickname, they were given something back.
”Next season, and really subsequent seasons, will be about improving each day,” Hennigan related.
Orlando got guard Arron Afflalo and forward Al Harrington from Denver, forward Moe Harkless and center Nikola Vucevic from Philadelphia, and forward Josh McRoberts and guard Christian Eyenga from the Lakers.
The Lakers acquired Howard, guard Chris Duhon and forward Earl Clark from Orlando. The Magic also traded guard Jason Richardson to Philadelphia.
Orlando also gets 5 draft picks over 5 years.
”There will be no panic,” Magic coach Jacque Vaughn asserted. ”There will be no chaos.”
The Lakers pulled off the deal and somehow kept Pau Gasol in the act – something many wasn’t expecting when Los Angeles 1st started getting mentioned in the Howard trade mix.
For the Los Angeles Lakers to get Howard they wanted to give up the All-Star center – Bynum – they’ve nurtured since he used to be a 17-year-old draft pick.
The Lakers already made one splash in this offseason, getting Steve Nash from Phoenix. So they got better at point guard, and did the same at center.
Now the Lakers can have a roster that would rival the NBA champion Heat, Western Conference champ Oklahoma City and the rest of the NBA’s best.