Magic in a tough spot with Howard

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:16 PM ET

The land of Disney was thrown into a tizzy when a New York based scribe opined that Dwight Howard has become the apple of the Lakers’ eyes.

No one in their right mind would dare comment publicly on speculation that Superman will join Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol when Howard’s current contract expires following next season.

As he showed in last week’s road loss to Oklahoma City, Howard can’t be stopped when he’s making his shots from the charity stripe, as dominant a centre the game has seen since Shaquille O’Neal was in his prime.

But like Shaq Daddy, the folks in Orlando are growing concerned that Howard may follow in O’Neal’s path to Hollywood if the Magic is unable to win a championship in the very near future.

Like Shaq, Howard led the Magic to an appearance in the NBA final, only to lose to the Lakers in a five-game series.

Virtually every move Magic GM Otis Smith has made in the past two years has been triggered to put the Magic over the top and help convince Howard that his best option is to remain in central Florida.

Whether it was in Cleveland or in Toronto, recent history has shown that no move, no matter how impactful it may appear, is sufficient to keep a face of a franchise from bolting town.

The drama that continues to play out in Denver over the future of Carmelo Anthony only adds to the paranoia that is palpable in Orlando, where a spanking new arena has been built at considerable cost, where the team has spared no expense in acquiring pieces to surround Howard.

The franchise has exceeded the NBA’s tax threshold, is apparently on the hunt for a backup centre for Howard, which is natural given the team’s dearth of bigs, but it should be made abundantly clear that no move can guarantee Howard’s long-term future in Orlando.

Players hold the hammer, saying things that are strictly designed to placate the public knowing full well they can decide where they ultimately want to play.

“At the end of the day, I think he wants to stay here and wants to win here,” Smith told the Orlando Sentinel. “But with so many marquee guys moving, it’s kind of hard for me not to have any angst about it.

“I’d be crazy if I didn’t, of course.”

One guy can make or break a franchise when so much is done and compromised to keep that guy happy.

The situation in Cleveland is sad, rock bottom being reached when the Cavs were thoroughly thumped by the Lakers in L.A. last week.

The Raptors aren’t much better.

In Denver, the whole Melo mess has completely derailed the team.

In Orlando, the acquisitions of Hedo Turkoglu, Gilbert Arenas and Jason Richardson give the Magic a scoring, perimeter presence that is tough to match.

As currently constituted, it’ll be very difficult for the undersized Magic to beat a team such as Boston in a seven-game series, which is why the need for a backup big is so obvious.

What isn’t obvious is Howard’s future in Orlando.

“I don’t know what happens,’’ added Smith. “My crystal ball is telling me Dwight wants to stay here.”

AROUND THE RIM

When it’s all said and done, injuries will be cited as the primary reason for Grant Hill not making the Hall of Fame. Had he stayed healthy, Hill was a lock, as versatile a player the game has ever seen. It was of little consolation when Hill was informed of his 16,000th career point, a list of active players that consists of 15. “It feels good, especially just to be able to continue to play after a lot of injuries, and still be out there. You know, sometimes I get depressed. I think I could have had more, but I’ll take the 16. I won’t be greedy.” Hill is a complementary player in Phoenix, but he’s stayed injury-free, which is saying a lot ... Chris Bosh, who hurt his left ankle in Miami’s loss in Chicago, took exception to the way Bulls’ big man Omer Asik dove for a loose ball, a sequence that led to Bosh’s injury. “C’mon, that is how guys get hurt, that is how serious injuries happen. You’ve got to watch people’s legs. I know guys want to hustle and everything, but we all want to play and provide for our families and have a job. We all want to be healthy and that is very important. If it is by somebody’s leg, don’t dive for the ball, it’s too close.” Miami’s 2-3 road trip featured injuries to both Bosh and LeBron James (ankle) ... The Mavs went 2-7 minus Dirk Nowitzki (knee), a stretch that began with a home loss to the Raptors. The former NBA MVP made his return in Memphis on the weekend, where the Mavs got hammered and where Nowitzki showed the effects of his extended absence by making only two of seven shots in 15 minutes before he fouled out.

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca

Remembering Bernie Offstein

The shadow Bernie Offstein cast in the basketball world grows larger, his loss more pronounced with each passing year.

Wednesday marks the seventh anniversary of Offstein’s death, a legendary hoops figure who touched and shaped so many lives that no amount of space can do justice to Offstein’s impact, both on and off the court.

A staunch supporter of basketball in Canada at all levels, no voice carried as much clout as Offstein, who never minced a word and who never wavered in his passion for the Raptors.

One of the best testimonials was provided by Jay Triano, who was then an assistant coach with the Raptors in 2004 when Offstein was posthumously named as the recipient of the Coach Mac Award, which honours individuals who have contributed to the sport of basketball.

“You could never count the number of players at all levels, or the battles in the board rooms, that Bernie fought for,’’ Triano said. “He was basketball in Toronto.

“He was a genuine individual from the Raptors and a proud Canadian in the basketball community. He fought for what was right when no one else would.”

For many, life has not been the same in the wake of Offstein’s death, but his memory resonates and his spirit remains very much alive.

Jamison a real pro

Forever intertwined, one cannot talk about Vince Carter without mentioning Antawn Jamison, teammates at North Carolina who were traded for each other on draft night in 1998 and who would later become brothers in law.

While Carter looks old and disinterested in Phoenix, Jamison continues to persevere amid the losing in Cleveland, leaving everything out on the floor.

During the Cavs’ recent road trip out West, Jamison appeared in his 900th career game, a milestone Carter, barring an injury, will hit sometime later this season.

“One of the best I’ve ever been around, the way he carries himself every day,’’ Cavs guard Boo Gibson said of Jamison. “Coming into work, trying to motivate guys. On top of that, he’s a hell of a player. That’s a great combination.”

Jamison is one of 23 active players with at least 900 games played.

Of greater note, he is one of only three players in NBA history with at least 17,000 points, 7,000 rebounds, 900 three-pointers and 900 games, joining Dirk Nowitzki, also taken in the 1998 draft, and Scottie Pippen.

Silver lining for strike?

The league’s deputy commissioner, Adam Silver, provided a sliver of hope amid growing fears next season will be interrupted or completely shelved in the absence of a new labour deal.

“It’s not inevitable,” Silver said of what many predict will be a work stoppage when the NBA’s agreement with its players expires on June 30.

“While we have no other formal meetings scheduled now, there is an ongoing dialogue with the union and we’ve been completely forthcoming with our financials.

“And I’d like to believe they understand the position in which we find ourselves and that no rock will go unturned in trying to get a new deal done.”

Silver’s boss, NBA commish David Stern, has gone on record saying the league wants to cut salaries by as much as $800 million a year.

In addition, Stern has said the NBA stands to lose about $370 million this season, a number, not surprisingly, the union isn’t buying.

Melo drama

During his time in Toronto, Chris Bosh became friends with Masai Ujiri, who served as one of Bryan Colangelo’s lieutenants before taking over the GM duties in Denver.

Bosh is well aware of the difficult spot Ujiri finds himself trying to make the best out of an awkward situation involving Carmelo Anthony, the face of the Nuggets franchise who is on his way out of the Mile High City.

“I’m not a GM,’’ said Bosh. “It’s a tough trying to convince somebody: ‘Hey, you should stay here and this is why.’

“Sometimes guys, they want to see something. You never know what a guy is thinking.”

It’s hard to feel any sympathy for Melo, who will get an extension close to $70 million whether he ends up in New Jersey, New York or even Denver, which doesn’t seem likely.

“All you want to do as a player is think about what you’re supposed to do, think about your profession,’’ added Bosh.

“And you can’t escape it. People are asking you every minute of everyday. Mentally, whether you know it or not that’s going to take a toll on you.”

Games of the Week

Hawks at Heat, Tuesday

Miami hoping to end three-game slide, hoping to have a healthy James and Bosh.

T’Wolves at Clippers, Wednesday

UCLA product Kevin Love going toe to toe with Blake Griffin in a battle of bigs.

Knicks at Thunder, Saturday

No shortage of scoring with Amare Stoudemire and Kevin Durant expected to go off.


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