Orlando’s Superman set to fly away

By Ronil Desai

Give Superman some kryptonite and suddenly he becomes quite the opposite. Despite sharing the same moniker as Clark Kent, Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic is seemingly much more immune to distractions and detractions. The six-foot-eleven centre is currently dealing with issues that will have a direct influence on the rest of his professional career, yet he’s still playing strong. But in the midst of trade rumors that are quickly going from swirling to hurricane force, the question remains: who’ll win the Dwight Howard sweepstakes?

With several teams in the mix, both Howard and Magic management have been patient and are clearly waiting for a transaction that would benefit both sides. While a trade seemed almost definite prior to opening night, Dwight Howard has gone as far as saying that he expects to be in Orlando for the remainder of the season.

Nevertheless, there are three front runners in the race for Howard but each of those — the Lakers, Mavericks, and Nets — face major challenges in creating a package lucrative enough for the Magic to part ways with the three-time defensive player of the year. While the Mavericks have no chance of acquiring the superstar until the offseason, the Lakers and the Nets present interesting trade scenarios.

With the Nets’ move to Brooklyn next season and arguably one of the best point guards in the game in Deron Williams, New Jersey presents a unique opportunity for Howard. The possibility of playing with Williams would likely be appealing for the centre, as he’s never played alongside a guard quite so talented.

The business opportunity for Howard is immeasurable but the Nets would likely have to acquire a few more assets to surround Howard if they have any aspirations of competing with the Bulls and the Heat at the top of the East.

Los Angeles’ basketball civil war is only growing with the Clippers acquiring Chris Paul, and the Lakers almost giving away Lamar Odom for nothing. There are pressures on Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak to make a splash, and acquiring Howard would be a big one. If they don’t, they could lose what they’ve had almost sole claim to: top spot in the West.

If the Lakers make a push, the package will likely have to include young centre Andrew Bynum. But, acquiring Howard would keep the Lakers as legitimate contenders, even if Kobe Bryant is in the latter half of his career. While the potential twin tower combination of Howard and Gasol would have Laker fans in a tizzy, the Magic would likely ask for both Gasol and Bynum, leaving Bryant stranded on the perimeter.

However, the longer Howard stays a member of the Magic, the more it benefits the Mavericks: should they clear up some cap space, would have the opportunity to acquire both Deron Williams and Howard as free agents in the off-season. Just what the reigning NBA champs needed.

Condolences to Magic fans; it’s only a matter of time before Superman jets off somewhere else. Howard is in his final season before free agency, so you can bet that he’ll be on the top of his game, whether or not he’s still with the team that drafted him first overall in 2004. But keep a close eye on the ticker: despite what Howard says, the inevitable is coming.