According to ESPN, a four-team deal which will send Dwight Howard to the Lakers appears to be complete. In it, Andrew Bynum will be sent to the 76ers with guard Arron Afflalo, some worthless draft picks, and two other unnotables heading to Florida.
After the news broke, I struggled to think of a worse haul in any of the major sports for a player as dominant. When Kobe Bryant retires with seven rings, will history remember Arron Afflalo?
In fairness, the Magic achieved one objective and that is that they will be very bad – the proposed Hornets-Lakers-Rockets trade last December which would have sent Lamar Odom, Luis Scola, and Kevin Martin to New Orleans for Chris Paul would have been worse than this as it would have ensured mediocrity. But in that case, David Stern was smart enough to corruptly step in and squash the deal. Unfortunately for Magic fans, there is no overseeing power that will step in and save them today from Rob Hennigan.
When a team trades a superstar in today’s NBA landscape, there are three objectives: a) landing high draft picks b) landing an existing blue chip prospect c) financial relief. With this deal, sending out only Jason Richardson and possibly Chris Duhon, the Magic achieve none of them.
The question is now being asked, what happened to Houston? Wasn’t the Rockets’ package better? The Rockets were offering, reportedly, cap relief, a guaranteed lottery pick, and some combination of rookies. We likely won’t know what really happened. Perhaps Houston, after contentment with what they saw in summer league play combined with an increasing fear of Dwight’s reluctance to re-sign, reduced their offer. Perhaps after elongated talks, emotions came to the forefront and Hennigan just refused to deal. At least for now, we won’t know.
What we do know, as we’ve been saying for the past few weeks, is that the Rockets are fine; they are in good shape. No one envies them (well perhaps Orlando), but for the first time in years, their condition is “healthy.” It’s extremely disappointing that the league’s two best centers, and perhaps the two sole superstars still left on the market, were dealt with Houston left holding its bag of chips. I won’t sugarcoat things – it is disappointing. But the future is bright. For once, there is no uncertainty. There is no dependence on some extrinsic occurrence. The team has jettisoned its aging veterans and brought in a slew of youth; finally, they control their own destiny. They are not waiting on something else – they will let their own players grow.
And for now, it seems that the Lakers have no desire to trade Pau Gasol.
The irony is that except for Orlando, everyone else came out like bandits in this deal. Well, perhaps that’s not ironic. When one team gets screwed over so badly in a deal, it’s probably not surprising that the spoils got passed around.
Philadelphia becomes maybe the league’s most interesting team, trading a guy they were trying to get rid of for a legitimate low post threat. With Holliday and Evan Turner already in tow, I hope they can hang onto Bynum.
Afflalo is a fine young player. But Iguodala is an upgrade and should help in Denver as they continue to build a model of super-mediocrity.
And of course, there are those Lakers. Those Lakers who have now added Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to a lineup which includes Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. Would the West All-Star team, minus its expected Lakers participants win against the Lakers starting lineup? Paul, Westbrook, Durant, Griffin, Love, Gasol vs. Nash, Bryant, Artest, Gasol, and Howard? Probably, but only because Ron Artest is so damn bad.
We’ll finally now likely get to see a James-Bryant finals – hopefully NIKE has more ideas for those puppet commercials, perhaps one with Howard acting out a continuation of last year’s buffoonery. When the Heat sub out Mario Chalmers for Ray Allen in June, all ten players on the floor will have at one point been an NBA All-Star.
Today was a great day for the NBA’s business and a bad day for the NBA. But through it all, the Rockets will be fine. For once, they are happy with what they have.