Last night's tense loss to the Los Angeles Clippers marked a familiar story for the NBA's best center. Dwight Howard scored 33 points and snared 14 rebounds, while watching his team fall to a 15-10 record.
The Orlando Magic are a supremely strange team, starting off the shortened season with a 10-3 record and looking like a potential wrecking ball in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
And then things changed as proverbial items hit nearby fans. Scoring was sluggish against teams like Philadelphia and New Orleans—the latter of which they lost to by 26 points.
Lo and behold, at the end of each of these games Dwight Howard has delivered an MVP-caliber performance, and is left shaking his head at his teammates and the franchise as a whole.
Being cognizant of the fact that players turning their backs on franchises they helped build is frowned upon, it still seems impossible not to relate to Howard's frustration.
He is averaging 20.9 points and 15.1 rebounds per game this season. Yet his team shows no offensive flair, cohesiveness or drive to win.
So what's the guy going to do?
The Magic have over a third of their season in the books, so in the event that Howard did wave goodbye to the Disney World mecca, it would be almost impossible for the team to right the boat and salvage a season.
There was a point at which it seemed Howard could suffer through this season and make it through a playoff series with his lethargic, bored squad. But the breaking point may indeed have been the embarrassing Magic loss to the Hornets at the end of January.
If anyone needs a reminder, the Hornets are a fairly horrific team with a current record of 4-21. And the Magic didn't lose to them—they got utterly dismantled.
Yet Howard still got a double-double that night (28 points and 16 rebounds), making the Hornets' sting all the more potent.
With all of this animosity and inner turmoil brewing to volcanic proportions, Howard is trying to get out of Dodge as fast as possible.
The Bulls won't get him, because they'd have to gut the roster to do so. They are comfortable where they are—as they should be—and wouldn't take the risk to pick up another All-Star.
The Lakers will wait to put all their chips in until next season, when maybe a big move involving Bynum and Gasol could occur. As of now, the morale of that team will not benefit from having the egos of Howard and Bryant on the floor simultaneously. Also, a big man is not going to cure the lack of depth on that team currently.
While Mark Cuban has pockets that stretch to the core of the earth, the Mavericks don't care enough to grab Howard either. They have a solid record with a crew of guys that are, for the most part, on their last legs.
The Mavericks will definitely need restructuring come next season, but it's not going to begin by getting rid of guys like Jason Terry and Jason Kidd right now. Plus, no one is going to want to gamble for these ancient veterans anyway.
That leaves the gloriously underwhelming New Jersey Nets. It would definitely be a smart move to focus this team around the point guard-center combination of Deron Williams and Dwight Howard, who would likely work well together. They could make a trade incorporating Brook Lopez, Anthony Morrow and a draft pick for Howard without having any negative repercussions on the team.
They are currently 8-18 anyway and look like they have little to absolutely no chance of making the playoffs. At this juncture, it may be the most intelligent move for New Jersey management to go for Howard so that next season they could draw a few more additions that could make the team startlingly promising.
The point guard-big man combination is working wonders for the Los Angeles Clippers—who arguably have even less depth than the New Jersey Nets.
The only thing that is left to be determined is whether Howard will sacrifice the potential of a playoff spot this year for the prospect of constructing a better team in seasons to come.
Also, is Dwight Howard going to ultimately be perceived as providing a negative impact on team morale, as he performs miraculously each night and chastises his team for lacking the same tenacity?
It will be fascinating to watch how pieces could be shuffled in the NBA to accommodate the arrival—or lack thereof—of its most important center.
Both the Magic and Dwight Howard know it's not working...
It's just a matter of deciding who wants to break up with whom first.