Posted Feb 9 2012 10:08AM
ORLANDO -- What do you give a man who's worth over a billion? Well, a commitment from Dwight Howard would be nice, but Rich DeVos isn't getting that. Not now, maybe not ever.
"I don't want to trade him," said the owner of the Magic. "I don't want him to go."
He is 85 years old and gets around in a wheelchair. He built his company, Amway, into a global distribution goliath that generates millions. He used a chunk of his fortune to help construct the state-of-the-art arena that bears the company name, and given away tons in charity. From an entertainment standpoint, nobody but Mickey has carried more clout in Orlando the last two decades.
But guess who holds the hammer in the organization at the moment?
Another day, another Dwightmare, as the franchise center and team lurch toward the trade deadline with no agreement in sight. Not only does the daily Dwama threaten to overwhelm All-Star Weekend in Orlando in a few weeks, it could change the direction of the franchise, at least in the short term, when/if the inevitable conclusion is finally reached.
Basically, nothing has changed since December, when Howard let his feelings be known. Howard says he doesn't want to re-sign with Orlando. Howard wants to go to one of three teams, with the Nets leading the list. And the Magic refuse to budge, hanging onto the idea -- illusion and fantasy, maybe? -- of convincing him to stay. For now, anyway.
The team is applying a full-court press that's slightly less suffocating than the double-teams Howard sees on an every-game basis, and it was ratcheted up a notch Wednesday when DeVos made a rare appearance at Amway Center. He did the rounds in the home locker room and chatted with reporters as the players dressed, sat courtside for the game against the Heat. Right before leaving, he spoke briefly with Orlando general manager Otis Smith. Wonder what that conversation was about?
DeVos has turned over the operation of the franchise to one of his sons, Dan, but still cuts a distinguished figure and an influential shadow around the team.
"Everytime he comes to the games," said Howard, "we talk."
And the main topic is whether the Magic have enough help around Howard.
"We want to win, too," said DeVos. "We all want to win."
For one night anyway, the Magic played like a title contender, ambushing the team that most everyone expects to sip champagne this June. The Heat didn't stand a chance Wednesday after Howard had a double-double after one quarter and a 20-20 after three. He copped the play of the night by chasing down LeBron and ruining a Miami fast break.
It was a symbolic sequence, because LeBron and Howard are both in a heated sprint to grab a ring. They are the best players without one.
The difference is, LeBron believes he has a chance with his present team. Howard, evidently, does not.
"That's the reason why most of us play the game, to win championships," said Howard. "LeBron's had all the individual awards, we've both had it, MVPs, defensive player of the year ... we've done our share. But there's one thing missing. I think it separates being a good player and a great player, having those rings. Both of us are chasing."
It promises to be an entertaining if not interesting spectacle: Who reaches the tape first? LeBron certainly has his own demons to bury in that regard, based on his fourth-quarter meltdowns last June. He may be on target for another regular season MVP but admits to spending his time looking in the rearview instead.
"I just didn't finish games well in the Finals," he said. "I beat myself over it about that all the time. I got a lot (grief) about that and I understand."
But at least LeBron can console himself with yet another year of suiting up next to Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and, because of that, getting another realistic opportunity to right those wrongs. Howard is bringing Hedu Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson to the race, which makes him the tortoise by comparison.
So he waits. Orlando waits. And we'll soon find out where this is all headed. Such is the luxury when you're a center who plays both ends of the court like nobody currently in the game and becomes a free agent this summer. And such is the pain when you're a franchise that surrendered up Shaquille O'Neal a decade earlier and must figure a way to prevent that from happening again.
"You never give up," said DeVos.
Maybe the question isn't what to give a billionaire who has everything. Really, it's about what to give a franchise center who has almost everything. The answer to that is easy enough, but Dwight Howard has serious doubts whether the Magic can deliver it anytime soon. If ever.
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