Memo To Dwight Howard: Just Shut Up And Focus On Basketball. Please.

Dwight-HowardIncase you hadn’t heard, Dwight Howard is apparently ready to take his talents to Chicago. Or something. On Sunday, when asked about Chicago Bulls superstar Derrick Rose, Howard told the Chicago Tribune:

“If I could play with Derrick right now and God wanted that to happen, it will happen,” Howard said. “It has nothing to do with me not wanting to play with Derrick Rose. I love him. That’s my brother.”

Now, taken in a vacuum, those comments aren’t all that bad. Howard didn’t intimate that he was desperate to play in Chicago, or even necessarily wanted to, per se. All he said was that if the opportunity presented itself, he’d love to play with Derrick Rose. Honestly, who wouldn’t?

Of course with Dwight Howard, the problem is that you can’t his comments in a vacuum, but instead have to line them up into context with everything else he’s said over the previous few months. And for those you who haven’t been paying attention, what’s he’s basically said are the following: That he’d love to play with the Celtics. Or the Lakers. Maybe even the Mavericks or Nets. Possibly even the Clippers or Knicks.

This would all be well and good of course, except, well, Howard plays for the Orlando Magic, and there’s a pretty good chance that he’ll continue to do so for another five months. And as long as he does, he seems set on continuing to make obnoxious comments like he did Sunday, and continue to fuel the most annoying story, that-isn’t-really-a-story in sports. That topic? Where will Dwight Howard end up at the end of this season?

That’s right, if you haven’t been paying attention, since the lockout ended, Chris Paul got traded and the season began, the Dwight Howard sweepstakes have taken center stage in NBA discussions. Where will he end up? Who will he play for? Is this his last season in Orlando? These talking points seem to literally lead every Sportscenter debate about the NBA, and could quite possibly blow up the sports talk radio medium as we know it.

(By the way, on that last comment, I’m not even joking. My favorite radio show on the air right now is “Max and Marcellus” based out of Los Angeles. Max Kellerman and Marcellus Wiley have incredible chemistry and put on a great show. I download the replay podcasts of the show whenever I can.

And what I can tell you about their show unequivocally is this: There isn’t a single day that goes by without at least one caller phoning in to give his or her half-baked idea on how the Lakers can end up with D12.

At this point whole situation has literally turned into a car accident on the side of the highway: Nobody wants to totally acknowledge it, but you can’t look away either. That’s this Dwight Howard mess in a nutshell right now.)

Now of course in most instances like this, I don’t blame the player, as much as the media for perpetuated the rumors and playing them up for TV ratings and page views. Go ahead and call it the “Tim Tebow Effect,” if you will. Everyone hates Tim Tebow because ESPN and every other sports outlet won’t stop talking about him, yet he ultimately it’s the media who keeps the cycle going, not Tebow himself. As a matter of fact, I bet if you asked Tim Tebow, he’d tell you that he’s just as embarrassed by all the coverage as he gets as anyone. But that’s just kind of the state of sports media right now.

Well in the case of Dwight Howard, it’s safe to say that the same phenomenon that made Tebow a non-stop talking point this fall is definitely not what’s happening with Mr. Howard this winter. Nope, you can’t blame ESPN, CBS or any other outlet for fueling the Dwight Howard rumors as much as Dwight Howard himself. That’s because D12 is not only happy to answer your question about playing in another city, but he’s also glad to answer it with an almost alarming degree of transparency. In the process, he’s driving fans absolutely insane (myself included), and driving a wedge between he and his teammates.

Before we do get to the Magic though, let’s get one thing straight: In an era where NBA superstars team up, create super-teams and worry about their “personal brand” more than wins and losses on the court, we have never seen anyone handle their pending free agency quite as poorly as Dwight Howard.

Looking around, it’s not even close.

If you want to go all the way back to the 2009-2010 season, remember that before LeBron James choked his way out of Cleveland and onto South Beach, he spent the regular season winning an MVP and leading the Cavs to the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. That same year Dwyane Wade single-handedly willed his team to a No. 4 seed in the East. Chris Bosh was a bit more vocal about his desire to leave Toronto, but like now, he wasn’t as bad as Howard is now (then again, like now, nobody really paid attention to Bosh either). As for Chris Paul, the Hornets smartly traded him before they found themselves in a situation like the Magic do now…but even beforehand, CP3 handled things like a consummate professional. If you’ll remember, he even showed up to practice the day after his trade to Lakers got vetoed and his future was in limbo. Again, that’s what a professional does.

As a matter of fact, the closest example to the stunt that Dwight is pulling right now, came straight out Carmelo Anthony’s playbook last year. But even reflecting on that, what Carmelo did on his exit out of Denver isn’t as bad as the day-to-day Dwight Howard soap opera we’re currently all living through.

If you’ll remember, from the start of last season onward, Carmelo basically told anyone that listened that there was a zero percent chance he was staying in Denver. He told his teammates that. He told the media that. He told the front office that. Now, obviously, that’s screwed up, even I’ll admit that. But at the same time, in its own weird way, what Carmelo did was kind of noble. From the beginning ‘Melo made the stakes pretty clear to the Nuggets: “You don’t have to trade me, but either way I’m gone at the end of this season.”

(Actually in a lot of ways, the ‘Melo situation reminded me of how some of my friends approach the dating scene right now in our mid-20’s. As things stand, when they meet a girl out at the bar, there are basically two ways to approach things: You can either exaggerate the truth and pretend to be interested, if the end game is only, well… you know (a lot like what Dwight Howard is doing right now). Or, you can pull a Carmelo, be honest and say something to the effect of, “Look, I like you. You’re cute, and I’d like to get to know you a bit better, but I’m just not the ‘relationship type.’ If you want to grab a drink, I’d love to join you, but right now, I’m not really looking for a girlfriend.” Sometimes, brutal honesty really is the best policy. It worked out much well for Carmelo anyway.

The problem for Dwight is that he’s not being honest with anyone, including- as best I can tell- himself. He hasn’t pulled a Carmelo, hasn’t been blunt, and hasn’t just come out and said “keep me at your own risk.” At the same time, he hasn’t totally bought in with the Magic either. As a matter of fact, that’s why I can’t really blame Orlando’s front office here. This isn’t the Chris Paul situation, where there’s no hope in winning, and because of it, no hope in keeping the star player. As things stand, Dwight has been just passive enough where the Magic aren’t reaching their full potential, but they’re playing just well enough where they can’t blow things up either. I mean, how can you blame Otis Smith for holding on and praying for dear life? For better or worse he’s got to ride or die with Dwight. And right now, together they’re dying.

I mean, I don’t know if you’ve seen the Magic lately, but my goodness are they bad. Like, really bad. Like, even the Washington Generals are sitting around saying to themselves “What’s up with that team?” And things don’t appear to be getting any better.

Just for the hell of it, let’s have some fun with the numbers on the Magic during this slump. In this five-game losing skid, here are some of the essentials:

– In their last five losses, the Magic have averaged a mere 72 points per game. Yes, that average comes after playing in a 48-minute, regulation NBA basketball game.

– In three of those five games, Orlando hasn’t broken 70 points.

– In a separate loss, they blew a 27-point halftime lead…when they scored 25 second half points, including eight in the fourth quarter. To put that in perspective, my niece’s CYO team put up 29 points in the second half last weekend. And they’re 12-years-old.

– And of course, a week before that, Orlando hit rock bottom, when they scored a franchise low 56 points, by making an NBA-record low 16 field goals. To quote every NBA fan ever… “Yikes!”

And above all, I blame Howard. Yes, Dwight Howard. Superman. The best player on the most dysfunctional team in the NBA.

Now I know that on a level, that sounds crazy. Dwight is averaging a solid 20 points and over 15 rebounds (!) per game this season, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that in four of five losses, he had a double-double. I get that. But ultimately, I don’t care.

In sports, only part of a player’s impact can be found in a box score, with the rest coming from how he effect’s his teammates, and- in the case of a superstar like Howard- whether or not he actually leads his team. And if the Orlando Magic were a high school chemistry class, Dwight would barely be passing.

Recently, Dwight called out his teammates for not playing hard, to which I must say… dude, shut up. I mean honestly, how can anyone blame Howard’s teammates for not being excited to show up and go to work every single day? After all, Dwight Howard has been the bedrock of everything the Magic were and are for the past seven years, and now, not only does he have one foot out the door, he’s also talking about playing with other teams and players? Give me a break. How do you think Jameer Nelson feels when all Dwight Howard is talking about is Derrick Rose? Probably not too good would be my guess, in the same way that you wouldn’t be too happy if your girlfriend kept talking about her ripped personal trainer. We are all human after all.

To put this a different way, let me try and give you a bit of a real-life example:

Currently, I am the co-managing editor of a pretty cool college football website named I work with a great team of writers, and I truly believe there are big things coming in the future.

Anyway, I’m technically one of the bosses over there (“technically” being the key word), and well, imagine if I came out and told my fellow writers, “So, my contract is up in a few months, and I can’t lie, if I get a better opportunity, I’m getting the hell out of here.” On the surface, that’s probably not so bad, and honestly, nobody would blame me if I started looking into better opportunities, with better pay. Again, the whole “human nature” thing.

But it’s one thing to look for better opportunities and quite another to publicly speak about them months before they present themselves. Let me ask, do you think the guys I write with would be happy to hear me say stuff like:

“Yeah, I love you guys, but if CBS called, man, I’d really love to write alongside Bruce Feldman and Tony Barnhart.”

Or: “Yeah, I’ve always respected Dan Wetzel’s work at Yahoo, it’d be fun to be there.”

Or: “I could totally see myself at ESPN with Ivan Maisel.”

Of course they wouldn’t be happy, only an idiot wouldn’t be offended by that. Beyond that, you think my co-workers would be jacked up to go to war for me? You think they’d even like me period? That’s debatable.

Now before I wrap up, I do want to give Dwight Howard just the tiniest little pass here, if only because I think he is genuinely confused on what he wants. He wants to have the cake and eat too, be a good guy and stay in Orlando, and also hit a bigger market, with better teammates and take on the world like LeBron, DWade and ‘Melo did. He’s young and talented and has options, which is something that we should all be so fortunate to have.

At the same time, this wishy-washy, non-committal, talk-out-of-one-side-of-your-mouth crap needs to stop too.

As a matter of fact, if I were advising Dwight, I’d release a statement on his behalf, which basically said the following:

“As or right now, I Dwight Howard am a member of the Orlando Magic, and my only focus is to this team, organization and city. When the time is appropriate and I become a free agent, I will evaluate all my options, and do what’s best for my family. Until then, I will answer absolutely no questions in regards to my future with this organization or any other. Again, my only focus is on the present. Thank you for understanding.”

Now, if the team continues to fall apart and trade options look more viable, you can always change your tune. But for now, in the midst of an early season push for the playoffs, this is the best and only option. At the very least, it’s certainly better than what’s going on now.

As a matter of fact, as I continue to dissect this situation, I can’t help but think back to that old saying, “You’re either part of the problem, or part of the solution.”

And Dwight Howard, if you’re reading, right now you’re as much of the problem as anyone.

Just keep your mouth shut and play basketball. Ok?

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About Aaron Torres

Aaron Torres works for Fox Sports, and was previously a best-selling author of the book 'The Unlikeliest Champion.' He currently uses Aaron Torres Sports to occasionally weigh-in on the biggest stories from around sports. He has previously done work for such outlets as Sports Illustrated, SB Nation and Slam Magazine.