Dwight Howard would appear to have a poor sense of timing. Two days after winning his first Eastern Conference title, with four years left on his current contract, Howard spoke with the Orlando Sentinel about his future with the Magic.
"I'll be here as long as the fans want me to be here. They have a lot of do with it. ... You want to feel loved. That's the biggest thing. I show my love to the community. I show my love to this city by stepping on the floor every night and playing as hard as I can. That's all we want back."
You just want to grab him by his massive shoulders and tell him to enjoy the moment. There's a lot of time to worry about next steps in your career when there are actually next steps to take. Howard has a few quibbles with Magic fans from the past season, but they're pretty minor, and, as a franchise, the Magic have obviously done a great job of surrounding Howard with a winning supporting cast. So why all the focus on a potential departure?
It's just a theory, but this seems like it has a lot more to do with LeBron James than it has to do with Dwight Howard. It has to do with the way the basketball world has all but ignored the Magic's victory in favor of beating the LeBron doesn't shake hands story to death. It has to do with the people disappointed because they didn't get to see James take on Kobe Bryant. It has to do with the way Howard's ascension to the upper echelon of the NBA has been overshadowed by chatter about where James might wind up playing in 2010 and beyond.
And he'd right to be upset about the lack of attention being paid to him and his team. When James unexpectedly took the Cavaliers to the Finals in 2007, the headlines blared that the King had arrived and we all genuflected in response. Now Howard does the same thing, and does it in dominating fashion, without getting anywhere near the same attention.
Howard got plenty of attention a few weeks ago when Sports Illustrated and others wondered if he was too nice to reach the heights of NBA success. Even Stan Van Gundy seemed to wonder if the center could summon the reserves necessary to be a winner. Howard answered those questions in resounding fashion, but there have been neither mea culpas nor affirmations in response.
Even Superman needs love, be it from Lois Lane or the good people of Orlando. Howard's reminder won't fall on deaf ears, though the response at the next Magic home game may create some.