By John Denton
December 11, 2011
ORLANDO – A reflective Dwight Howard gave way to a fiery, impassioned one on Sunday night as the Orlando Magic superstar center said a major reason why he requested a trade is because he hasn’t been allowed enough input on the construction of the team through the years.
Howard, a fixture of Orlando’s franchise the past seven seasons, said he has repeatedly given suggestions of players he’d like to see on the Magic’s roster, but few of those transactions have ever transpired.
Even more troubling is the fact that Howard said the relationship between he and President of Basketball Operations/GM Otis Smith has apparently been damaged. Howard said he and the GM haven’t spoken since he submitted his trade request earlier in the week.
But most of all, Howard fumed about his lack of involvement on the direction of a franchise that he’s taken to great heights in recent years. In the last four years alone, the Magic have the third most playoff victories and third most regular-season wins of any NBA team. But Howard thinks Orlando, which lost in the 2009 NBA Finals, could have done better with a few of his suggested tweaks.
``What I’ve said was, `I want to be involved.’ Everybody has a right to want to be involved. All of us are together and the goal is to win. I should want to be involved and say, `this is what we need and this is what we should do,’’’ Howard said Sunday night following the third day of training camp. ``If I didn’t care I would have said nothing. But obviously I care enough about this team that I’ve asked to be involved. If I didn’t like it, I’d just walk away. But if you want to be involved you’d do anything you can for that person. And if you don’t get it, then what would you do?’’
That apparently is the reason why Howard told Smith face-to-face on Tuesday that he’d like to be traded from the only NBA franchise that he’s ever played for. Howard’s agent, Dan Fegan, was granted permission by the Magic to discuss the parameters of a potential trade with the Los Angeles Lakers, the New Jersey Nets and the Dallas Mavericks.
For now, Smith said the Magic are a long way away from trading away their four-time All-NBA center who is also the only player in history to win the league’s Defensive Player of the Year trophy three consecutive seasons.
``I’m not close to anything, no. I’m still looking, but there’s nothing out there hard and concrete,’’ Smith said of potential trades. ``I don’t have a timetable. (Howard playing in Orlando all season) is a possibility. Not sure that will be the case, but it’s a possibility.’’
Smith is one of the NBA’s most hands-on GMs, travelling with the team to just about every road game and attending almost every practice session. But he said the past two days that he’s been in his office working on re-signing free agent Jason Richardson and finalizing other deals. Therefore, he hasn’t had much of an opportunity to speak to Howard about his desires to leave Orlando. Howard apparently took that as a sleight, and wondered about their relationship on Sunday night.
``I’m pretty sure that you can go down the line and every GM has a pretty good relationship with the best player and all of the players. If you don’t have a good relationship with the guys you work with then how are you going to get better?’’ Howard asked. ``There was a good relationship (between Smith and Howard) and then I have to tell (the media) that we haven’t talked. We should still talk no matter what goes on. I’ve been here for seven years and no matter what happens we should be able to talk.’’
Smith said there were no problems between him and Orlando’s star player.
``We have a relationship for seven years and we don’t have one now according to him? I think our relationship is fine,’’ Smith said. ``I don’t have a problem with him.
We’ve always had a relationship and nothing has really changed. Is he referring to the two days that I haven’t been at training camp because I’ve been working? I don’t know what he’s referring to.’’
Smith said that Howard has been kept abreast of the Magic’s moves with trades, the NBA Draft and in free agency in recent years. The Magic have made several attempt at acquiring another star player to pair with Howard, signing Rashard Lewis and trading for Vince Carter, Gilbert Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu and Richardson. Smith said he’s willing to allow players, especially the best ones on the team, some input in personnel decisions, but added ``you can’t have a situation where the tail is wagging the dog.’’
``With your best player you do consult him on everything. That’s not uncommon and I have done that,’’ Smith stressed. ``Before we did any deals, he knew. Before we went into free agency, he knew. I beg to differ.’’
Howard, who turned 26 years old last week, said that his original hope was that his trade request from the Magic would have been kept quiet. He said that in some respects he was doing the Magic a favor by alerting them of his intentions so that they could get some compensation in return for him rather than lose him in July as an unrestricted free agent.
Said Howard: ``I’ve told them if something ever happens (with a trade) that I’d never leave this organization high and dry. They understand that.’’
Howard added that his teammates have been supportive of his decision to move on from the Magic. He has vowed to them that he will continue to work hard in practice and in games if he’s still wearing a Magic uniform comes the start of the regular season on Christmas Day.
``Right now, my job is to keep (his focus) on the court. I’m still with the Magic,’’ he said. ``I have requested a trade, but I haven’t been traded. Until that time I’m still going to give everything that I can to the city. That’s my job and I’m not going to stop doing what I do because of what’s going on. I’m still going to be same person and player.’’
John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997 and recently authored ``All You Can Be’’ with Magic center Dwight Howard. E-mail John at firstname.lastname@example.org
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