In 2009, LeBron James hit the American public with "the decision." It was an unprecedented PR move to cash in on an unprecedented amount of hype surrounding the NBA's biggest player. Now, in 2012, I'm almost on board with Dwight Howard airing his own "decision."
The Orlando Magic star has been at the epicenter of a trade rumor mill that has churned incessantly through the 2011-2012 NBA season.
Howard has cold-shouldered the media's efforts to get his take on the rumor mill of late, but it's more than clear at this point that Howard no longer sees Orlando as a veritable championship contender and thus wants out.
As this category 5 rumor mill continues to swirl, we look now to the New Jersey Nets as the latest potential suitor for "Superman's" services.
According to Sports Illustrated's Sam Amick:
Sources with knowledge of Howard's thinking say nothing has changed about his outlook. And while his wish-list of teams still includes the Nets, Lakers and Mavs, New Jersey is far and away the leader.
Though it may pain the purists, it's not just about basketball for Howard. He wants to take his brand global, to leverage the international influence of Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov while building his brand as Brooklyn's first star. His wandering eye is enticed not only by the Barclays Center that is set to open next season, but the businesses in the booming area around it that could afford many off-court opportunities. He wants, as one source said, to "be Kobe Bryant, not be with Kobe Bryant." Of course, it's hardly that simple.
Even to a passive NBA fan, the real meat of the story instantly jumps out at you. It's not enough for Howard to be recognized as one of the most formidable front-court presences in the NBA; it's not enough for him to the apple of Orlando's eye.
Howard's ambitions, it seems, extend far beyond the court. In New York, perhaps more than in any other market, Howard has the chance to become his own brand.
Howard is hardly a pioneer in this regard, so blaming him for reaching out towards a bigger portion of the spotlight isn't fair. Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov certainly knows a thing or two about window dressing and it was only a matter of time before a superstar conglomerate formed in Brooklyn.
Consider Deron Williams the party starter.
While Williams has been able to play his way into an All-Star jersey in 2012, the Nets are still treading rough waters at 10-25. If Howard is looking to add helping to resuscitate a franchise to his list of reasons for wanting a trade out of Orlando, going to the Nets would certainly validate it.
Of course, there's also the chance that Deron Williams could be looking jump ship after 2012, according to ESPN. Would that sour the deal for Dwight Howard if Williams were to head to Dallas? Probably not.
Howard is a keystone predator. What he does trickles down to all the lesser beings in his environment. Getting Howard to the Nets would involve several teams and would no doubt send at least one new starter his way.
Hoping for Dwight Howard to end up in Los Angeles or Manhattan is a pretty thought and would certainly be good for the NBA, but it won't happen.
The Dwight Howard brand can materialize in Brooklyn like no where else in the country. The juxtaposition between the new-look Knicks and the billionaire-minded Nets would be electrifying. It could also very well shift the topography of NBA power back towards New York.
This may well be the primary card that the Nets play, according to Tom Ziller of SB Nation. With all that went into bringing Deron Williams in from Utah, Brook Lopez stands to be the focal point of any and all of New Jersey's trade assets.
Perhaps that's enough to tip the scales.
If it were purely about basketball, Howard would take a pay cut and head to Los Angeles, Chicago or New York. There is nothing simple about this trade, or any trade for that matter, when a superstar's periphery is filled so many incentives and marketing opportunities.
With the trade deadline only two weeks away, expect progress at breakneck speed or none at all.
Ultimately, it's the Magic brass that will determine whether Dwight Howard's talents get to leave or stay.
For somebody Shaquille O'neal once dubbed the "master of panic," Stan Van Gundy has had little to say on the topic. The same goes for GM Otis Smith, who is no doubt trying his hardest to keep anything from leaking out of the front office.
Though as fans and critics, we all know where this is going.
Howard will in all likelihood, whether it's by mid-March or sometime in the Summer, become Orlando's greatest export in the last decade.
The Nets will suit him because they can provide him with the stage he clearly wants. They can afford him all the spotlight that his 6'11", 265-pound frame can handle, and Prokhorov has the pockets deep enough for Howard to launch whatever PR campaign he desires.
Howard's intentions may not be as pure or as centered as the more blue-collar fans amongst us would care to see. Perhaps that's not at all the case or perhaps Dwight simply doesn't care. What is all but certain though is that Dwight Howard, if he ends up a Net, may well build his own basketball dynasty across town from where Linsanity was spawned.
Personally, I'm hoping for an end to the speculation. The tired debacle of guessing where and when Dwight Howard will emigrate is, well, tired.
If Howard is a dreamer and a capitalist at heart, then New York suits him. Orlando wasn't built on the shoulders of industry and free-market thinkers. The NBA is a business, folks. An industry even.
Mikail Prokhorov has made it clear that the Nets are open for business. Don't be surprised if that's where Dwight Howard decides to set up shop.
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