Magic Must Trade Dwight Howard Before Training Camp to Avoid Another Circus

Stephen BabbFeatured ColumnistJuly 30, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 28:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic walks to the bench after a turnover to the Atlanta Hawks during Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on April 28, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Though it's hard to imagine the Orlando Magic holding on to Dwight Howard for much longer, don't make any assumptions about when or where the superstar center is headed.

General manager Rob Hennigan certainly isn't, telling the Orlando Sentinel's Josh Robbins:

As I've said all along, we're going to just continue to stay true to our process and let the process sort of dictate the opportunities and the scenarios that present themselves.

Is that vague enough for you?

One scenario that almost certainly won't present itself is a Disney-inspired change of heart in which Howard reconsiders his desire to leave Orlando. According to Robbins, he made as much perfectly clear when meeting when recently meeting with Hennigan:

D12 made it clear he has no desire to return to Magic. So he saw no need to discuss the team's future -- or the new coach.

— Josh Robbins (@JoshuaBRobbins) July 26, 2012

Given that kind of attitude, the Magic would be wise to make a deal happen sooner rather than later–preferably before training camp.

The risks associated with failing to do so could turn a rebuilding year into a regressive headache.

Sure, there's a chance that the offers on the table improve over time. The Denver Nuggets waited out Carmelo Anthony's trade request long enough to bait the New York Knicks into desperately crafting an enormous package.

The problem with taking the same approach in this instance is that the Magic are ready for some serious changes.

With new head coach Jacque Vaughn looking to orchestrate a cultural transformation on at the behest of a remodeled front office, keeping Howard around would only delay some inevitable and much-needed progress.

It would also distract the rest of the guys on the team from doing their jobs, and they've already been through a season of that.

Of course, there's also something important to be said for integrating new talent into Orlando's program as soon as possible. The organization will presumably collect several young prospects in any deal for Howard, and there's no sense in setting back their long-term development with a mid-season move.

There's a good chance Hennigan's waiting game is a ruse, at least in part. And, there's a good chance no one's buying it.

If other clubs believe there's a real risk the Magic could keep Howard indefinitely, they may feel pressured into increasing their bids.

That's a big "if" though, and Orlando could find that gamble backfiring if this becomes an even more protracted mess.

Whatever this franchise is publicly indicating, it's well past time to move Howard.