The Orlando Magic need to realize one thing and they need to do it fast: Dwight Howard does not want to be on their team.
That's right, what is obvious to almost everyone outside of Florida (and probably most in it) is that the top center in the league wants to pull a Shaquille O'Neal and bolt from the sunny confines of Orlando.
Despite Howards' committing to one more season in Orlando at the trade deadline last season; a move more predicated by fan and media pressure than any real desire to stay a Magic, Howard is going to be gone after his contract runs out, plain and simple. This fact — and believe me it's fact — leads the Magic organization to do the only thing it can do, which is trade Howard now and get as much in return as possible.
Simple enough answer, right? Well, not so fast.
Be it fear of getting hammered in the eyes of their fans or that they are just hesitant to pull the trigger on a trade because the next offer could be just a little better, the Magic have refused to really go after a trade of their All-Star.
Currently, both the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets are the two teams in contention for trade partners with Orlando, according to reports. The Lakers hold the edge due to, well, being the Lakers, and also because they have a big man themselves who they can add to any bargain in Andrew Bynum.
At 24, Bynum has had the reputation of being something of a space cadet when it comes to attention and has been somewhat of a headache for coaches. Despite that, the guy remains a top three center in the NBA and is coveted by many teams. With him involved in talks, the Lakers have enticed the Cleveland Cavaliers and their multitude of stocked first round picks, as well as talented center/power forward Anderson Varejao, to be potential trade partners, thus enabling a potential package that would be about as good as the Magic are going to get for their big man.
Besides the fact that neither Bynum or Howard have indicated that they are willing to sign extensions with any new team — a very important part of the trade process — the major stepping stone remains the same as it was when the Brooklyn Nets were trying to acquire Howard earlier this summer, the Magic are hesitant to commit to a trade.
Look, it's understandable that nothing short of a top five player in the league is going to make up for losing Dwight Howard, but the reality is as described above; Howard is gone at the end of next season.
Orlando needs to step it up and suck it up on a trade now to get this albatross of a noose off their neck before the season begins. Yes, it sucks to rebuild, but isn't it better to get something now instead of being left out to dry in a few months?
That's the reality that Orlando faces right now and that's why they have to pull the trigger on a deal pronto before this drags on into training camp. If the Lakers pull out and sign Bynum to an extension, then that just leaves the Rockets on board for a potential trade; and if that ends up being the case, then the deal isn't going to be as good as the one potentially now, thus making Orlando look even dumber than they do currently.
Listen, as a Cavaliers fan, I can relate to losing your top player and having to start over again, but if it's going to happen, make the best of it. That's what Orlando has to do, and do quickly, before they lose the chance.
James LeBeau is a sports contributor for CraveOnline Sports and you can follow him on Twitter @JleBeau76 or subscribe on Facebook.com/CraveOnlineSports.
Photo Credit: AP