Loose Ball: All Eyes in NBA on Dwight Howard
The NBA's annual midseason party is over. The out-of-town All-Stars have departed to rejoin their respective teams. The visiting media and fans have moved on to their next assignment or gone back home. The regular season resumes with nine games Tuesday night.
But Orlando, Fla., is still the center of attention and will remain so until March 15, when the trading deadline comes and goes. The entire NBA landscape could shift dramatically if Magic center Dwight Howard is playing elsewhere after then.
Howard, one of the league's biggest and most marketable superstars, was all over town during the All-Star festivities. He hosted parties, mingled with his fellow players and served as a coach in the All-Star celebrity game. But he couldn't get away from the question on everyone's mind:
Will he stay in Orlando next season if he isn't traded in a few weeks?
"All that stuff can go on after All-Star weekend," Howard said during his media-availability Friday. "But for right now, my focus is on having a great time, being a great host to all these great players that you see around us."
He has requested a trade to either the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks or New Jersey Nets but also hasn't closed the door on remaining with the Magic. If he leaves as a free agent at season's end, Orlando would receive nothing in return. Other teams aren't allowed to pay him as much as the Magic, which might decide to keep him and gamble that he'll stay.
Everyone has a take on what the 26-year-old should do, including his mother, who, during the All-Star Game broadcast, told TNT's Craig Sager that she'd like Howard to remain in Orlando. "I don't know what she said," Howard said Sunday after the West's 152-149 victory. "But that's my mom's opinion."
Trade rumors are flying around like Blake Griffin on alley-oop dunks, including a scenario in which Howard could land in New York with Jeremy Lin. That would take Linsanity to a whole different level.
Until the question is answered -- "Where's Dwight going?" -- it's all eyes on Orlando.
Just like this weekend.