For all his planning, Howard's somewhat diminished stock still on market

by | National Columnist
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Howard wants to control his destiny, but destiny has other ideas. (Getty Images)  
Howard wants to control his destiny, but destiny has other ideas. (Getty Images)  

It is Independence Day, the day when most Americans do what Americans do best -- flood supermarkets for their holiday comestibles until the shelves are barren and there isn't an 18-pack of cheap beer to be found anywhere.

It is the day when Dwight Howard finds himself, as the British like to put it, the last turkey in the shop.

It wasn't supposed to be this way, not in Howard's mind. He saw the Miami Plan take shape nearly two years ago and knew he wanted to be part of that -- if not in south Florida, then somewhere else. He wanted to be a trend-setter, a difference-maker, one of the new guard of on-the-fly general managers assembling their own teams while owners hurl bundles of money at them.

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And today? Still in Orlando, while Brooklyn, his latest dream destination, loads up on players and sheds cap space without him.

Well, so it goes. One more lesson, it seems, in who has the leverage as opposed to who would like it.

It stems back in large part to Howard's indecision on his re-up with Orlando last year, putting the ball back in the Magic's court. And even though owner Rich DeVos has backed up the truck at the executive level, free-ranging coach Stan Van Gundy and then turning general manager Otis Smith into general manager Rob Hennigan and new CEO Alex Martins, the strategy is unchanged:

Hold Howard until someone overpays to take him.

And so far the overpaying has gone on all around him. Deron Williams re-upped in New Brooklyn. Dallas, which wanted Williams, is now chasing Steve Nash and Jeremy Lin. The Knicks want in. The Lakers are considering throwing Andrew Bynum back into the hopper to see who jumps. Even Lamar Odom, who pouted his way in and out of Dallas, has found a new home, back in Los Angeles -- in a return to the Clippers -- of all places.

In other words, there is activity all around, oddly spurred by the idea of Dwight Howard, but none of it including Dwight Howard. The visionary without the window. The scientist without a lab. The last turkey in the shop.

We suspect this will change at some point, that even the Magic will weary of holding their reluctant debutante and settle for something less than magnificent in return for him. But a subtle shift has already occurred in that teams on the market have decided that the market will do just fine without Orlando's contribution. The hall's been booked, and the dance will go on as scheduled.

And it isn't just that teams have decided that. The folks who pay rapt attention to the fluctuations in the market are beginning to lose interest in whatever happens with Howard. Williams has become the big score of this body-snatching window, and Howard's acquisition, when it does happen, will become the afterthought. He is, for his all grand planning, going to end up not as LeBron, or Bosh, but as Battier.

OK, maybe that's underselling it a scoche. And maybe Comrade Berger will drop his barbecue tongs and policeman's boot-sized wine cooler some time today and ferret out Howard's landing spot. That's what he does, after all, rather than pretending to throw that silly photoshopped ball into the air while staring into a photographer's face.

But it probably won't happen today. The holidays aren't typically made for dealing, in large part because nobody is quite so married to the phone. Well, OK, agents are, but they can't make these deals any more than Comrade Berger.

No, this will just be one more day where Dwight Howard remains in stasis, paying the price for his baffling indecisions and the intransigence of his new bosses.

So he remains, watching the rest of the world go by whole he finds out that leverage is not an easy commodity to come by, even during free agent times. There he hangs, in the window on a busy shopping day, learning the loneliness of the last turkey in the shop.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast Sports Bay Area (CSNBayArea.com)

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