Denton's Action and Reaction: Sept. 4
By John Denton
September 4, 2012
ORLANDO – For every action there’s a reaction. So let’s take a look at the headlines and newsmakers around the NBA and offer up reactions.
ACTION: Dwight Howard takes out a full-page ad in the Orlando Sentinel to thank fans for his time in Orlando.
REACTION: Say what you will about Howard’s exit – and Magic fans have done so for weeks and many still have steam pouring out of their ears – but this was a very classy move by Howard and his representatives. Some fans will roll their eyes at the gesture and chalk it up to sugary PR spin, but Howard does truly love Orlando and has said he plans to keep a home here regardless where his NBA career takes him.
Having established somewhat of a relationship with Dwight through the years, I came to realize the struggle he was battling the last couple of years: The personal side of him loved Orlando, loved playing for the Magic and loved being the biggest fish in our small-market pond; but the business side of him – one that was constantly thrust upon him by his agents – convinced him that he could make more endorsement dollars, star in more movies and expand his brand globally if he were in a major media market such as Los Angeles or New York (Brooklyn).
Let’s face it: the superstar center had seven exceptional years in Orlando on and off the court, before last season’s awkward mess. No athlete in Orlando history has ever done more charity work off the court than Howard, and he was also pretty good on the court with a run to the Finals, getting back to the Eastern Conference Finals, winning six playoff series, three Defensive Player of the Year awards and making six All-Star appearances.
The messy divorce of splitting up with Orlando and exiting to Los Angeles – first for back surgery and then via a trade to the Lakers – undoubtedly sours many of the memories that Howard helped provide for Magic fans. There will be plenty of vitriol in the air on March 12 when Howard and the Lakers play in Orlando and there will be tinge of regret in Magicland this season each time the Lakers win a nationally televised game.
Deep down, Magic fans know they just lost the best player in franchise history, and that’s what makes Howard’s exit even more painful. His butchered exit strategy didn’t make things any easier, but maybe the newspaper advertisement was a first step in the healing process. That’s a wound that certainly won’t heal anytime soon, but at least give Howard credit for finally doing the classy thing and thanking the fans for their support over the last eight years.
ACTION: Former Magic assistant coach and Hall of Fame center Patrick Ewing is making a comeback – as a sneaker salesman.
REACTION: Ewing, who was not retained by the Magic as an assistant coach and failed in his attempts to land a head coaching job in the NBA, is attempting to restart his once successful sneaker line, Ewing Athletics.
The brand will hit retail stores in New York on Friday and subsequently expand to 33 stores nationwide and Europe by the end of the year. The shoes have a chance to be a hit again in New York, where Ewing is still revered for his Hall of Fame playing career with the Knicks.
During each trip to New York the past five years as an assistant coach with the Magic, Ewing was given a standing ovation by the crowd at Madison Square Garden and he was regularly mobbed by autograph seekers and well-wishers. Also, Ewing’s No. 33 jersey hangs from the rafters of Madison Square Garden and chants of his name – Pat-rick Ew-ing! – still break out from time to time.
Seeing the power that Michael Jordan was having selling Nikes shoes, Ewing split with Adidas in 1989 and formed Ewing Athletics. By 1990, the company was doing tremendous business, grossing approximately $100 million that year, according to the Associated Press. The company released more than 20 shoe models until 1996, when business struggles forced Ewing to shut down the business.
The latest Ewing shoes that will hit stores are dubbed the ``33 Hi Retro.’’ Ewing’s name and signature are on the tongue – something that is ironic because of Ewing’s utter indifference to signing autographs. The shoes will retail for $100.
Here’s to hoping that Ewing is a success at revamping his shoe line and ultimately landing a head coaching gig in the NBA. While in Orlando, he prepared game plans, conducted film sessions and worked with players of all sizes, but he has been unfairly labeled as a ``big man coach.’’ He is a kind and decent man and has a wealth of basketball knowledge to share with players. The NBA needs Patrick Ewing to be a part of the league, so let’s hope he’s back on a sideline real soon.
ACTION: Ten players, most notably Reggie Miller, are set to enter the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday.
REACTION: How cool is this? Reggie and his sister, Cheryl, will now both be in the Basketball Hall of Fame. According to USA Today, the only brothers to make Halls of Fame are Al and Dick McGuire (basketball), Paul and Lloyd Waner (baseball), Phil and Tony Esposito and Henri and Maurice Richard (hockey) and Bobby and Donnie Allison and Al and Bobby Unser (racing). But Reggie and Cheryl will be the first brother-sister duo in sports to both make the Hall of Fame in the same sport.
Reggie was a cocky, but dazzling player, ranking second all-time in 3-pointers (2,560) and 14th in scoring (25,279) while playing all 18 seasons with the Indiana Pacers. And he’s been equally impressive as an announcer, offering tremendous insight for TNT and rising to the network’s lead analyst slot. (Side note: I’ve said for years that TNT makes the smartest hires, while ESPN’s make you scratch your head. TNT – Charles Barkley, Reggie Miller and Steve Kerr; ESPN – Tim Legler, Bruce Bowen and Jalen Rose. Ouch, Worldwide Leader.).
I could totally see Miller running a NBA franchise someday as a GM or a team president. His style probably would never work as a head coach, but making personnel decisions could fit him perfectly. The only problem is getting him out of his home state of California, although the Pacers have an outside shot at a reunion because of Miller’s deep respect for Indy president Donnie Walsh.
ACTION: The Lakers announced that they will erect a statue for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and retire the jersey numbers for Shaquille O’Neal (34) and Jamaal Wilkers (52).
REACTION: Granted Abdul-Jabbar never hit a single sky hook at the Staples Center, but what could have possibly taken the Lakers so long to honor the greatest scorer in the history of the game? With statues for Jerry West, Magic Johnson, Wayne Gretzky and Chick Hern already outside of the Staples Center, Abdul-Jabbar was right to wonder last year why he had been omitted considering his all-time credentials.
O’Neal and Wilkes will become the eighth and ninth players with their numbers retired by the Lakers. They will join Wilt Chamberlain (13), Elgin Baylor (22), Gail Goodrich (25), Johnson (32), Abdul-Jabbar (33), James Worthy (42) and West (44).
Wilkes, who will go into the Hall of Fame on Friday, was a three-time all-star and a four-time champion in L.A. O’Neal led the Lakers to three titles, was the Finals MVP all three times and won a regular-season MVP award during the 2000 season. But as he did at almost every one of his six NBA stops, O’Neal burned several bridges on his way out of L.A. (See: Jerry Buss, Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant). He’ll get his No. 34 honored, but he probably shouldn’t hold his breath waiting on a statue alongside of Abdul-Jabbar’s. That spot will go to Bryant and (gulp!) possibly Howard someday.
John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997. E-mail John at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @JohnDenton555.
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