Is Dwight Howard on the road to villainy? - NBC Sports

Is Dwight Howard on the road to villainy?
Leaving Magic will hurt reputation, but like LeBron, Howard can recover
Reuters
It seems that Dwight Howard is walking down the same path to villainy that LeBron James did in the wake of "The Decision." But like LeBron, Howard will be able to recover his reputation.
July 30, 2012, 9:07 pm

You ask, we (try to) answer.

Q: How much is Dwight Howard injuring his reputation? For all that's being said, he helped get the Magic to the playoffs before his back injury, something he appeared to push through before the pain got too great. If LeBron can repair his image within a year, why would we think Dwight couldn't?
- Roy, Plano, Texas

A: Agree. Winning in the NBA repairs all. For as much as LeBron was more accommodating and less "villainous" this past season, the real change came when he hoisted the Larry O'Brien trophy.

I have no doubts that if Dwight does the same, not only will all be forgotten (except in Orlando) but some might actually come around to the thinking that he was not the one who held the Magic back, but that the Magic were the ones who held him back (sort of like what happened amid Shaquille O'Neal's championship success with the Lakers). Do I agree with that logic? No, but it's the NBA way.

To a degree, an argument could be made that Dwight actually has handled it the right way this offseason in removing himself from the equation and allowing his agent to handle the dirty work.

And for all the derision cast upon Dwight, it again is important to remember that unlike with so many of the free agents who relocated in 2010, from LeBron to Bosh to Stoudemire to Boozer, Dwight's indecision has allowed the Magic to actually get something tangible in return, be it draft picks or prospects. Had Dwight not waived his opt-out last season, he could have simply departed in a fashion where the Magic would not even have been able to clear sufficient cap space to add a free-agent replacement.

The reality is Dwight's next team, next teammates and new city will embrace him just as Miami embraced LeBron and just as Los Angeles embraced Shaq after his defection from the Magic.

That's why it is imperative that Dwight get to a contender. Because as LeBron learned, if you chase a ring, you will be derided as long as you come up short.

But as soon as this Dwight-mare concludes, there will be another NBA villain du jour. It simply is the NBA way.

Q: How can Jacque Vaughn coach the Magic when he doesn't know if he's going to be coaching a team with the best center in the NBA or one facing a huge rebuilding program, with Gustavo Ayon at center?
- Jason, Lake Mary, Fla.

A: Oh he knows, and he's very much being brought in as a development coach. Had the Magic truly believed they were going to remain in win-now mode, I doubt they would have so quickly distanced themselves from Stan Van Gundy (a championship-level coach) or allowed Ryan Anderson to so easily depart.

It's safe to say that Jacque Vaughn's current Magic playbook has a lot fewer post-up sets than the team's previous edition.

To a degree, Vaughn is in the same position Byron Scott found himself in in 2010, entering the scene fully aware that a franchise player is about to move on. And, no, Byron never got to coach LeBron James in Cleveland.

Without being too harsh, it's almost as if Vaughn is being cast as a modern-day Tim Floyd, someone who will get to collect a coaching paycheck and break into the fraternity, but someone who likely will stand as little more than a transitional presence.

Q: Ira, what's going on? The Suns used to be the portrait of stability, with Nash, Stoudemire and Marion. Now you can't even recognize the roster. Michael Beasley? Wesley Johnson? So now we're the Timberwolves? I like Scola, but the Rockets basically just gave him to us.
- Gary, Chandler, Ariz.

A: But that stability (some would say stagnancy) never got the Suns to the ultimate accomplishment, and the longer they held on to Nash, the longer they were going to remain in the holding pattern of fighting for a final playoff seed.

Once Nash left, there was little reason to continue the charade, with Stoudemire and Marion already gone.

That's why it is somewhat surprising that the Suns simply didn't move to total-rebuild mode, since falling just shy of a playoff berth means little more than another middling draft pick.

With Alvin Gentry heading into the final year of his coaching contract, the Suns appear near their breaking point, with it possible it gets a lot worse before it starts to get better.

Q: What is David Kahn doing "rebuilding" a team around Andrei Kirilenko and Brandon Roy?
- Ed, Woodbury, Minn.

A: Uh, changing course? The Timberwolves certainly have moved plenty of young talent this offseason, from Michael Beasley to Wes Johnson to even Wayne Ellington. About the only logical answer is that he is going all in on trying to appease Kevin Love with more of a win-now roster.

Based on Kirilenko's Olympic play and performance in Russia this past season, it is clear, that even at 31, he will be an upgrade on much of what the 'Wolves had featured at forward last season. And if Roy can recapture his pre-injury form, he also would be an upgrade.

Kahn has to get Minnesota to the playoffs not only to keep Love invested in the team's future, but also to preserve his own NBA future.

Kahn scored with Nikola Pekovic last season and may have come up with another overseas prospect in Alexey Shved. But the West is loaded, with the Thunder, Spurs, Lakers, Clippers, Grizzlies, Mavericks and perhaps even Nuggets essentially givens when it comes to playoff spots. That doesn't leave much wiggle room for the 'Wolves.

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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