Is Howard not that popular? Is he not that good? Is he not sitting that close to Jim Gray?
What Howard has done over the course of the last year has been every bit as terrible as LeBron's Decision with far less vitriol from the basketball populous.
Granted, part of the LeBron hatred was due to leaving his hometown team via free agency and stringing the city of Cleveland (and part of New York) along for weeks before a garish proclamation at the end of a ridiculous hour-long charade where Gray asked innocuous questions about the process and biting his finger nails and any other time-wasting nonsense he could think of before getting to the point of the show.
The Decision was a public relations nightmare for James, something of a cautionary tale for athletes faced with similar choices in their own celebrated careers. Howard must have been busy that night, or must have figured his situation in Orlando was somehow different from what James went through. Why he thinks his behavior this year should come without disdain is anyone's guess.
Instead of taking LeBron's gaffe and using it to his advantage by handling his free agency with professionalism and respect, Howard held the Magic hostage by floating a year in advance that he wanted to go to a team in the New York market.
Then, instead of finishing last year in Orlando and becoming a free agent this offseason, Howard inexplicably waived his one-year early termination, thereby holding the city of Orlando—and the entire NBA—hostage for another year. In March, ESPN Insider Chris Broussard penned a column headlined "Dwight Howard Wants To Stay."
How long did that last? A month? Two?
Certainly the owners in Orlando have made mistakes since then. Their biggest gaffe may have been trusting Howard to have the best interest of their team in mind at any point in this process. Did anyone really think when Howard stayed the extra year in Orlando that he was going to re-sign long term? Who is the biggest fool in this?
Forget about what actually happened, and let's stick for a moment with the public perception of what the last few months looked like from the outside.
Howard rumbled that he was unhappy in Orlando, despite being on one of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference.
Rumors started to swirl that Howard wanted to leave Orlando for the Nets, one of the worst teams in the NBA. Rumors started to swirl that Howard would consider staying in Orlando if Stan Van Gundy was fired. Van Gundy addressed those concerns in the terribly awkward interview session that got interrupted by Howard—talk about a video bomb—before Van Gundy was eventually and unsurprisingly fired in May.
Let's not forget that between the time Howard reportedly wanted Van Gundy fired and the time he actually got the coach fired, the All-Star center got hurt and wasn't able to play, thereby ruining any chance Orlando had to make a run in the NBA playoffs.
Still, for whatever reason, Howard had all the leverage in town.
With the ability to pick his own head coach (and with a new GM to help stock the team around him), Howard balked, reportedly upset at the Magic front office for not publicly defending him when the allegations came out during the season that he wanted Van Gundy fired.
Let's recap: Howard reportedly wanted his coach fired, then lied to everyone on the planet after Van Gundy told reporters the story. When his coach was fired, thanks in large part to Howard tearing apart the team and being unable to contribute at all on the court, Howard's reaction was to demand a trade anyway.
How is this not worse than The Decision?
How do we not hate this man as much as LeBron?
How is Howard allowed to get away with this?
If possible, it gets worse. Not only does Howard want out of Orlando, he has made it clear he only wants to go to the Nets, meaning that any team who tries to trade for him will be renting the All-Star's services for one season, thereby lessening any value Orlando can get n return unless the Nets were the trade partner.
Tired of being hamstrung by rumors, the Nets went ahead and locked up their other pieces, taking themselves out of the Dwight sweepstakes until at least midseason.
What's left? The Lakers are willing to part with Andrew Bynum for a year with Howard in hopes they can take that time to convince him to stay forever. Los Angeles is a perfect landing spot for a guy who overvalues his own importance like Howard does. He'd fit right in among the many self-proclaimed stars in that town (and, of course, Kobe Bryant).
The Rockets are also interested in Howard, hoping to revitalize the center position in the post-Yao Ming era in Houston. That, or they figure they can buy low on Howard and sell him to the Nets at the deadline if their season goes south.
Howard is ostensibly holding three franchises hostage right now—more if you still include the Nets, and still more if you count the Cavs, who have been rumored as part of a three-team deal.
Howard doesn't just want his cake—he wants to eat all but one bite before complaining that he didn't like the icing and demanding a new piece so he can eat that one too.
Howard wants to play in the city of his choosing for the coach of his choosing with the players of his choosing, and he somehow still expects everyone in the league to like him after this is done. Again, how is this not worse than The Decision?
Perhaps it's just a matter of timing. LeBron wasn’t hated by Cleveland or New York before The Decision. Even the rigmarole of that made-for-prime-time ESPN event wouldn't have annoyed nearly as many people had he taken his talents back to Cleveland instead of South Beach.
It could just be a matter of time before the rest of the country catches up to Orlando's hatred of Howard, because boy do they hate him there. Just think, if Howard does end up with the Nets, Houston and Los Angeles—and most of New York—will hate him too. The rest of the country can't be too far behind.
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