Dwight Howard had the power (Hawks didn’t have chance)

The chance of these two guys being teammates in Atlanta was always a longshot. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

The chance of Dwight Howard, Josh Smith being Atlanta teammates was always a longshot. (Curtis Compton)

(This blog will be updated or replaced by a full column later.)

Dwight Howard is about to become a Los Angeles Laker and — if this deal doesn’t fall apart and the principles don’t change — this will be the Lakers’  lineup next season: Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace (see: Ron Artest) and Howard.

Wonder what it’s like to be king?

Even if the Lakers weren’t Howard’s first choice (strangely, Brooklyn was), this expected deal just reaffirms how star players have all the power in the NBA. As much as the owners hate it and NBA commissioner David Stern keeps trying to rewrite the rule book to prevent it, elite players will always have the hammer in the NBA because rosters are so small relative to other team sports and one star can make a significant difference.

There was a time when Howard, an Atlanta native and former star at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, once had a pristine off-court reputation. But his credibility has taken a beating for the past year. He morphed into the ultimate sports diva. He criticized teammates for a lack of work ethic and dedication while at the same time asking out of Orlando. He got his coach, Stan Van Gundy, fired. He flip-flopped on trade requests.

His defenders claim he was merely struggling to please everybody and he just wanted to be liked. Welcome to spin central.

But in the NBA, none of this matters. Every team still wanted Howard. He is the game’s most dominant center and one of the five best players in the world (assuming his back is healthy). Fans in Atlanta or anywhere else who ripped Howard would quickly embrace him if he wore their team’s uniform. That is why, regardless of the baggage, Howard still had the leverage.

Orlando never realized this.

The only people who handled the Howard saga worse than Howard were those people in the  Magic front office. We can never really know in these situations whether to assign more blame to the owner (who counts ticket stubs) or the general manager (who needs to worry about his job). But had Orlando traded Howard a year ago, when he still had two years left on his contract, the team likely would’ve gotten more in return than they’ll get when this deal is done. The reported pieces going to the Magic in the four-team trade (Orlando, L.A., Denver, Philadelphia): Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic, Moe Harkless and five draft picks (but all three first-rounders are lottery-protected).

If that’s accurate, the Magic would be trading one of the best players in the world and not get Gasol, Andrew Bynum or even a high No. 1 pick in return. That’s embarrassing.

Now, about the Hawks: It was never realistic that Howard was coming here. Even with trading Joe Johnson, Hawks general manager Danny Ferry still had the pieces (Al Horford, Jeff Teague) to entice Orlando. But it didn’t make sense for Ferry to jump in unless Howard gave assurances that he would sign a contract extension here.

Imagine if the Hawks made the trade anyway, and then both Howard and Josh Smith left in free agency after the season?  With Horford and Teague gone, now what?

The Lakers can take that risk. They’re closer to a title and there’s a better chance Howard stays in L.A. than Atlanta. They’ve got Kobe and Hollywood.

In the end, Howard will get what he wants. The stars always do.

I’ll have more on this deal if and when it goes down.

By Jeff Schultz

Recent blogs on demand (no charge)

Video: This is what I think about the Falcons (also, Tara)

Lights, camera, action! Bobby Petrino wants you to know he’s sorry

Expect Julio Jones to take over for Falcons

Over/unders: Dogs 9½ wins, Jackets 8 wins (agree or disagree?)

Medlen gives Braves a reason to consider 6-man rotation

91 comments Add your comment

The Grinch

August 10th, 2012
11:17 am

The sad thing is, I’d still like that team better than the Heat.

@DanWeiner

August 10th, 2012
11:21 am

no, crappy owners and GMs have all the power in the NBA. Dwight Howard wanted to be traded. Houston and Brooklyn had better offers on the table. Atlanta and certainly other teams could have offered a better package than the one Orlando accepted for Duh-wight.

Yes, the NBA is a star’s league, but the reality is good owners/GMs are going to take advantage of the bad ones. Orlando has just cemented it’s place among the top 5 worst run franchises in the league. The story here isn’t Duh-wight getting what he wants. The story here is how the Magic owner is so inept he should have his franchise taken away from him.

NCBravesFan

August 10th, 2012
11:25 am

Jeff – good post. I think if you’re the Hawks, you thank Dwight for indirectly causing the events that lead to Joe Johnson getting traded. If Dwight would have been a free agent this summer, that Brooklyn trade never happens.

Now the Hawks will have flexibility to go after some players in 2013.

nobody

August 10th, 2012
11:31 am

Man, The Magic gave up the most and got the LEAST. Denver came out really nice in the deal. And of course the Lakers got what they want. Again.

PMC

August 10th, 2012
11:31 am

Meh, we’re the Hawks, the next superstar is going to have to be drafted period.

It is what it is. Atlanta is not LA or New York. Dwight didn’t want to play here.

PMC

August 10th, 2012
11:32 am

LA has now cornered the market completely on D bags. They own even more than Miami now.

nobody

August 10th, 2012
11:34 am

Professional Sports are a joke. Oh you live in a big city? YOU GET ALL THE PLAYERZZZZ. Everyone else can screw off.

eastbound and down

August 10th, 2012
11:35 am

this is why the lakers are the lakers and the hawks are the hawks. the lakers have been in approximately 50% of all NBA finals ever played, which is something no team in any other professional sport can even dream of. the lakers do what the need to do. get chamberlain, get abdul-jabber, get kobe, get shaq. the hawks trade wilkins, sign konchak, sign joe johnson, etc.

Zing

August 10th, 2012
11:35 am

You’re right that I would have jumped on the bandwagon if Dwight had come to town, but I’m kind of glad that he’s not coming here. He’s been one of the more obnoxious, arrogant players of recent memory.

However, I’m also dismayed that it seems like the Lakers once more get a sweetheart transaction… just like when they got Pau for basically nothing from Memphis a few years ago. It’s almost foregone that it’s going to be Lakers-Heat for the championship now, right?

[...] Magic blow it, give Howard awayNBCNews.comOrlando Sentinel -Yahoo! Sports -Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)all 1,141 news [...]

nobody

August 10th, 2012
11:37 am

Zing- Exactly the Finals Stern wants. That sweetheart deal seems a little odd. Just makes you wonder why he told The Lakers they couldnt have CP3 but they can have Dwight

nobody

August 10th, 2012
11:42 am

So Denver got Iggs for Afflalo, Harrington, and a 1st? Thats the biggest steal of this deal.

Will

August 10th, 2012
11:44 am

The worst about all this is the growing trend that any city not named Miami/LA/Chicago/NY/Boston … perhaps also Dallas … is meaningless in the NBA. 27 year-old guys in the prime of their careers with thousands of women chasing them want to be in the glam cities. Not Orlando. Sacramento. Milwaukee. Minneapolis. Memphis. Toronto. New Orleans. Not even D.C. or Atlanta — and OKC didn’t get where they are because free agents chose to go there. Superstars are forced to play there b/c they were drafted or traded there.

Unless you are a fan of a team in one of those five or six glamorous markets, rest assured — the best players in the league don’t want to play for your team.

eastbound and down

August 10th, 2012
11:44 am

Zing,
don’t forget the hawks drafted Pau and traded him for shareef abdur-rahim. another steller move

Joey

August 10th, 2012
11:47 am

To hell with Howard.

So can we get him next summer . . . .?

PMC

August 10th, 2012
11:48 am

nobody, it could be argued that the 2 time MVP they got from Phoenix is a bigger star than CP3.

nobody

August 10th, 2012
11:49 am

Will- Its just amazing that year after year those same 5 teams can afford to keep piling on the talent.

Joey

August 10th, 2012
11:51 am

Dang, eastbound and down (11:35), you’re telling the truth, but it’s kinda hard to take. Where’s my flask . . .

nobody

August 10th, 2012
11:51 am

PMC- Oh I dont think anyone is complaining about having to settle for Nash, but it is just amazing that only the big time cities seem to be able to pull off trades for big talents. Sure small guys like Monta Ellis go to the Bucks and Gordon went to the Hornets, but outside of that when was the last time a upper level talent went to a lower level city?

Artman

August 10th, 2012
11:51 am

Orlando fans must be absolutely furious. The magic is now officially the worse franchise in the NBA.

PMC

August 10th, 2012
11:52 am

The NBA and the NHL both have similar issues. Not enough quality talent to go around.

They desperately need retraction. The season is worthless until the playoffs. It’s absolutely useless to follow the NBA before March.

nobody

August 10th, 2012
11:53 am

I feel really bad for OKC. They draft probably better than anyone in history, and they make good responsible trades and field a very solid and talented team the old fashioned way. Now the Lakers in two swoops grab Nash and Howard and most likely kick them out as the West champions.

The truth

August 10th, 2012
11:54 am

Jeff you ever notice that Dwight’s reputation started going to hell soon after he changed agents?

Will

August 10th, 2012
11:55 am

PMC, I agree. The league needs to contract by two, perhaps four teams. Minneapolis and Sacramento, for starters.

Joey

August 10th, 2012
11:56 am

“Luxury tax? What luxury tax? – LA, Miami, Chicago, and Boston GMs

nobody

August 10th, 2012
11:56 am

PMC- It is useless to watch until the Conference Championships. We know the Lakers and Heat will be there. The NBA will only become interesting when we see if they both can get to the finals or if OKC and Boston/Bulls can knock them off.

nobody

August 10th, 2012
12:04 pm

Lol at Magic Johnson on Sportcenter: “We may finally get that Lebron-Kobe Final we have all been waiting for” Im sure that had nothing to do with this trade……

Danny O

August 10th, 2012
12:07 pm

As a Hawks fan, I am quite happy that this prima donna won’t be a cancer in the Atlanta locker room next year.

Dawg Haus

August 10th, 2012
12:07 pm

Good post, Jeff. Do you see the Hawks making a bid for Howard in free agency after the season? What about for Chris Paul?

Tired Tired Tired

August 10th, 2012
12:07 pm

No one with any talent wants to play in Atlanta if they have a choice. Lousy ownership, management, and coaching sums it up. Haven’t accomplished anything in the past 40 years, same results for the next 40 years. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”….Albert Einstein

DeepDiver

August 10th, 2012
12:08 pm

Steve Nash a bigger star than CP3? It is 2012, right?

@CRuleSportsGuy

August 10th, 2012
12:14 pm

Philadelphia is the sneaky-good winner in this deal, assuming Bynum and Turner mesh. Denver just got better/more entertaining, and now we have non-OKC or MIA headlines galore. In fact, I expect this Lakers squad to get more press than the Heat, since it’s the newer “Big (Insert number here if you do/don’t count Gasol)” and Howard’s PR destruction.

eastbound and down

August 10th, 2012
12:22 pm

Joey,
@11:51 don’t forget to pass the flask to me. on a positive note, the falcons’first team looked pretty sharp last night, except for Ryan’s int.

thespotter

August 10th, 2012
12:27 pm

I am such an LA fan! It’s going to be NASHTY up there with D12 and the BLACK MAMBA! Not to mention the Pain-Artist-Formerly-Known-As-Artest and POW! Go LAKESHOW, baby! LOL Check out my interview with D12 at http://thespotdotcom.wordpress.com , btw.

space monkey

August 10th, 2012
12:32 pm

All the rest of the league can do is hope for major injury problems for LA and Miami. What a joke. The other teams should just forfeit all games and let LA and Miami play for the title.

CDOG

August 10th, 2012
12:32 pm

THE LEAGUE NOR THE COMMISSIONER NEVER MEANT FOR HOWARD TO COME TO ATLANTA.THEY HAD TO KEEP THE TRADITION GOING IN LA WITH THE GOOD BIG MEN SO THE LEAGUE AND LA COULD MAKE MONEY.THE NBA HAS TURNED INTO A JOKE.

BobWeiss

August 10th, 2012
12:35 pm

The Hawks should have just made the trade and hope for the best. I would imagine the Magic would have gladly accepted just Horford and some future picks considering what they ended up accepting. Even if Howard decided not to sign, the Hawks could have gotten something back with a sign and trade. You sometimes need to roll the dice and see what happens. Horford is a nice player, but far from a franchise player.

bigclaude

August 10th, 2012
12:43 pm

This is exactly the reason why that despite being a fan of the game of basketball…my interest in the NBA rarely rises above tepid.

If you are not a fan of one of the “have” teams……then what are you supposed to root for in this league? The “have not” teams may as well be D league teams because they have no chance of winning a title. Until they come up with a hard cap (without all of the exceptions) to level the playing field then I am Seacrest out!!!!!!!!!

Chuck

August 10th, 2012
12:45 pm

So, once again, the best center in the league winds up with the Lakers.
..

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

The NBA has basically become a group of 5-6 Globetrotters and a whole lot of Generals. Don’t be stupid enough to give the Generals your hard-earned money.

Moorman

August 10th, 2012
12:46 pm

Glad to see a COUPLE of you see the fix. The nba has always been the most obviously fixed of the major team sports……

momentoftruth

August 10th, 2012
12:46 pm

Am I the only one who think OKC is still a better team than the Lakers? 82 games is a long season and the Lakers are a old team. Not to mention D Howard is coming off of back surgery. Who knows how good he will be. I still think we’ll see OKC vs Miami round 2 next year.

Felix

August 10th, 2012
12:50 pm

For me, this whole Orlando debacle is just one more reason to not watch the NBA. The inmates are really in charge in the NBA. The owners/GMs/Stern have created a monster.

Howk

August 10th, 2012
12:59 pm

a superstar like dwight is never coming to a loser franchise like atlanta, managed by a bunch of morons. that was fantasyland.

Jawill85

August 10th, 2012
1:02 pm

Everybody missing the point D12 not signing a extension beyond this year! He can still sign with the Hawks next off-season and by the way we still were able to keep Al Horford!

2012-13 Atlanta Hawks Starting Five!

C- Howard
PF- Horford
SF- Smith
SG- Free Agent/ Morrow
PG- Paul or Teague

Eric

August 10th, 2012
1:02 pm

Why do teams keep helping these teams like the Lakers and Boston win a Championship??? Why did Denver have to stick it’s nose in the deal, if you ask me they came out on the short end of the stick along with Orlando. The Lakers and Sixers were the only winners in this deal, Orlando had a better deal with the Nets. The Magic can battle the Bobcats for the worst team in the league title now.

Rick

August 10th, 2012
1:06 pm

This trade is so full of stuff that it just makes me angry. How do the Magic allow themselves to get robbed like this? Not only that, how do the Lakers pull off another of those “Gasol” type trades? I know they gave up Bynum, but come on man! How in the heck can mid level market teams make it in the NBA…………..they cant! Hawks (and all other mid level teams) will never have a chance to realize the dream of being a contender that can compete if trades like this continue to happen in the NBA. NBA stands for Nobody Better Ask (as in you better not ask how it was done; deal with it and continue to watch) about what goes on behind closed doors. If the NBA wanted Dwight in Atlanta it would have happened. SIMPLE! This stinks like last weeks trash!

hind tit

August 10th, 2012
1:09 pm

Who really cares where anybody goes in the NBA. All they do is run from one end of the court to the other and shoot. Save your money and go to your local park and rec. and see the same thing. Boycott the NBA for a year and bring them to their knees.

Mike

August 10th, 2012
1:10 pm

The Lakers have the best team ever assembled. If everyone stays healthy they will stroll to a title. They have the top 5 best point guard to ever play the game, top 5 shooting to ever play the game, and Howard although he’s early in his career still is one of the most dominate big men to ever put on a NBA uniform.

Paul in NH

August 10th, 2012
1:15 pm

Since the teams in the NBA can’t compete to get stars by how much they pay them you are always going to have favored locations getting the best players.

Dwight Howard | NewsTrendr

August 10th, 2012
1:16 pm

[...] To Lakers Keeps Los Angeles RollingForbesYahoo! Sports (blog) -Washington Post (blog) -Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)all 1,198 news [...]