Another sign that Howard wants out of Orlando - NBC Sports

Another sign that Howard wants out of Orlando
Center makes trade issue easy for Magic by not embracing home fans during All-Star Weekend
AP
Magic center Dwight Howard had nine points and 10 rebounds in the East's 152-149 loss to the West in the All-Star game in Orlando on Feb. 26.
February 28, 2012, 11:02 pm

Q: Dwight Howard played the All-Star game like he didn't care. Was that his way of blowing off Orlando?
- Dave, Winter Park, Fla.

A: It certainly was an odd approach, considering how hometown players generally tend to want to put on a show, contend for the game's MVP.

I think Howard is at a point where he is drained from all the trade speculation and needs a resolution.

Yet who created the trade issue in the first place? That would be Howard, with his preseason push for a deal and the agreement to allow his representation to pursue deals with teams of his choice.

No, he has not handled this well, particularly those All-Star Weekend interviews when he discussed how difficult the process has been. Howard, of course, created that process, something that could have been handled with far fewer distractions behind closed doors.

During a typical season, there likely would be resolution by now, with the trade deadline generally four days after the All-Star break. But this is not a typical season, so the Magic have until the March 15 deadline to make a move.

If anything, what we witnessed during the All-Star game should make it easier for the Magic to make a deal, with Howard hardly embracing the home crowd.

While the thought process in Orlando is that Howard can't possibly walk away from the extra $30 million the Magic can offer in free agency compared to an outside team, you have to wonder about a player who seemed so disinterested in pleasing the home crowd during their highlight moment of the season.

This was ugly already. Sunday didn't help.

Q: When LeBron James passed up the final shot in the All-Star game, were you saying to yourself, "Here we go again?"
- Marty, Boynton Beach, Fla.

A: No, I was saying that it merely is an exhibition and anyone who reads anything into it is merely searching for storylines.

Beyond that, LeBron mentioned in his pregame interviews in Orlando how his nature is to facilitate, get others involved, play more like a Magic Johnson than a Michael Jordan. I think that's what made LeBron's pass (and turnover) so confounding to Kobe Bryant, who better exemplifies Jordan's killer instinct.

By now, in this Heat mix, the expectation should be that Dwyane Wade takes the final shot for the Heat, that Chris Bosh sets himself up as a relief option (and high-percentage scorer) and that LeBron tries to make it happen until that moment of truth.

It is time to move past what LeBron can't do and appreciate how someone of his skills found a way to make a lopsided All-Star game into a compelling event in the final minutes.

LeBron James will never be Michael Jordan and probably won't even be Kobe Bryant. He has said as much.

He might be Magic, though, if he can help his team win a few rings, which is entirely possible.

Q. What was D-Wade thinking Sunday when he went after Kobe's head? Shouldn't he be suspended for that? In an All-Star game, what an idiot. I don't think Metta will be so "World Peace" on Sunday?
- Ron, Norwalk, Calif.

A. It certainly is intriguing that a week after Wade busted Kobe's nose the two will square off Sunday on national television at Staples Center.

And, yes, it certainly would not be out of the question for Metta World Peace to inject himself into the equation.

But these are the moments that Kobe relishes, particularly against Wade, and particularly because the Lakers lost the teams' first meeting, when Wade was sidelined.

No, Wade should not have committed that foul. It was out of line for the setting. There is no no-layup rule in All-Star games. An apology was warranted.

It will be interesting to see who the NBA sends to officiate Sunday's game and the tone those officials set.

The silliness of this past Sunday likely will make this coming Sunday all the more compelling.

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Q. Is it worth making the playoffs and being embarrassed in the first round, or is it time for Danny Ainge to break it up Boston?
- Steve, North Waltham, Mass.

A. I still believe that any team with Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett has to be feared. But the more you watch the Celtics, it is clear that Garnett is not himself and that Rondo almost is resigned to eventually being dealt.

Based on Boston's poor play going into the break, I would agree that with another slip or two by the Celtics, Ainge just might reach his breaking point.

Allen, in the final year of his deal, should be able to fetch a prospect or pick from a contender. Garnett? I'm not sure his unique style (and salary) would make him as convenient a trade chip.

But the clock is ticking. No team may have as much at stake in these two weeks heading into the trading deadline as Doc Rivers' roster.

Q. At this point, would you rather face the Knicks or Celtics in the playoffs?
- Ananth, Germantown, Md.

A. Hmm. (And I do mean hmm.) It could make for an interesting debate at the top of the standings entering the season's final days.

As much as I've mentioned lingering concern about what's left of the Celtics, I'd be more concerned with the Knicks by then, once Jeremy Lin and Carmelo Anthony have the opportunity to mesh, and once J.R. Smith and Baron Davis have more time to get acclimated.

Q. How can Spurs coach Gregg Popovich decide not to play his players in road games without advance notice. Isn't that cheating fans?
- Marc, Vancouver, Wash.

A. No, it's Pop being Pop, the ultimate caveat emptor coach. It's not as if he hasn't said countless times that it's all about the playoffs for his aging team.

Now, would he be willing to sit his stars at home? Not nearly as likely.

Don't be surprised if other contenders adopt a similar approach. With the standings so muddled, it's not as if teams will have much ability to maneuver for specific playoff matchups, anyway.

If you want to see the best a team has to offer, your best bet is to buy tickets when the Bulls visit, because coach Tom Thibodeau only holds back during All-Star games.

Q. Poor Greg Oden just had another knee surgery. His price tag will never be lower than it will be this summer, and it sounds like it's pretty much a done deal that he's leaving Portland. What are the chances he becomes someone's "project center" next season?
- John, Miami

A. At the minimum, the risk would be minimal.

But it was interesting how when the Blazers added Joel Przybilla, it elected to release Armon Johnson. It will be interesting to see how long the Oden-Blazers dynamic continues.

This could be like the Zydrunas Ilgauskas situation, where once Oden gets his footing he can start his career. But this is a knee, not a foot, and even the lingering foot issues of Yao Ming showed that enough is enough.

I'm not sure that Greg Oden hasn't reached the point where he merely moves on to the next phase of his life.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.

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