Dwight Howard Trade Speculation: Orlando Magic Enter Panic Time as End Nears

Jim FolsomContributorApril 25, 2011

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 24:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic walks downcourt after a turnover to the Atlanta Hawks during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on April 24, 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

We've all seen this movie before. Last year we watched it play out in Cleveland. Earlier this year we saw it in Denver. Now it's heading to Orlando. It's called 'Farewell to the Franchise." This time it stars Dwight Howard as Superman, the soon to be free agent.

The plot is a familiar one. The franchise superstar is frustrated by all too short playoff runs and develops a severe case of envy watching Kobe's Lakers and Rajon's Celtics battle for rings each June. Their teams try to accommodate them by bringing in aged stars well past their prime in an effort to show the superstar that they are willing to do whatever they can to compete. But alas, these has-beens are not enough to avoid the inevitable early playoff exits.

As soon as the superstar is free to shop his services around the country, he teams up with one or two guys in the same situation or perhaps joins up with Kobe in Los Angeles. Fans who cheered for the superstars are left jilted and crushed.

The fans in Orlando have been through this before. In the 90s it was another Superman, Shaquille O'Neal, who left to team with Kobe. The results were a decade of "rebuilding" in Orlando while watching Shaq and Kobe collect three NBA titles together.

In an effort to stop it from happening again, Magic fans will now begin a Dwight Howard love fest in an effort to get him to stay after he becomes a free agent in one year from now. But the only really successful effort will have to be from the team itself.

The front office tried this year to give Dwight some help. They brought in Gilbert Arenas, a former superstar himself. They also brought back Hedo Turkoglu, who came up huge many times in the team's run to the NBA Finals just two years ago.

Unfortunately, neither are the player they once were. Turkoglu's jump shot has gone away. His shooting in this year's playoffs is so bad that he now can't even hit a free throw.

Arenas is now playing on two bad legs. Surgeries and age have robbed him of his quickness to the hoop. And his jumper is not what it once was either. As anyone can tell you, the legs are what makes your jumper. Once they go, your shot goes with them.

So now the Magic front office is in panic mode. What do they do now? First, they have to dump players. Arenas and Hedo will most certainly be the first to go. Nobody else is safe. Except, of course, Dwight Howard.

But wait? Is Dwight safe? Maybe not. Having watched Cleveland, Denver and Toronto lose their big-time free agents, will Orlando choose the Denver route and try to get something for Dwight? Maybe. And maybe they should.

Denver saw the handwriting on the wall at midseason, and instead of watching Carmelo Anthony just walk away, they held their noses and traded him away to New York. This way at least they get some good young talent to work with while trying to rebuild.

Perhaps the Magic will try to follow the lead of the Heat and instead of being a seller, become a buyer. Chris Paul is out there for the taking this offseason. A Paul-Howard duo could be really interesting.

One thing is for certain: Losing Howard would really hurt this team. They just opened a brand new state-of-the-art facility this year. To have it half empty every night in a post-Howard era would be devastating.

Next year is the most critical time in the franchise's history. Screw this up, and it could be years before we hear from the Orlando Magic again. Otis Smith, you are now on the clock.