“Making some wishes,” Howard said.
One of his wishes has finally come true. At long last, he’s out of Orlando.
It took four teams, 11 other players, five draft picks and countless rounds of talks over many months, but the Orlando Magic decided the time was right to start over without the NBA’s best center and end a saga that has dogged the franchise for what seems like an eternity.
Howard is off to play alongside Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles, after a megadeal involving the Lakers, Magic, Philadelphia and Denver was worked out Thursday and completed Friday after the NBA reviewed and approved the particulars.
“It was just a very tough situation for everybody to let go,” Howard said. “I’m finally glad that it’s over with. Myself and the Magic organization, we can all start over and begin a new career. Today is a fresh new start for all of us.”
Even while otherwise busy at the London Olympics, Bryant quickly proclaimed that the Lakers are “locked and loaded to bring back the title.” He spoke with Howard on Friday morning, and interrupted his pursuit of a gold medal _ the Americans will play for another of those Sunday _ to talk about how the Lakers look very much like a major contender for another NBA title.
“I’ll probably play two or three more years. Then the team is his,” Bryant said. “I’m excited for the franchise because now they have a player that can carry the franchise well after I’m gone. This should be his and he should want to accept that challenge.”
Time will tell.
Howard, who may not be ready for the start of the season while continuing to recover from back surgery that he had performed in Los Angeles four months ago, plans to become a free agent next July. He could stay with the Lakers. He could end up in Dallas, which should have oodles of cap space. Maybe the Brooklyn Nets _ one of Howard’s preferred destinations throughout this saga _ find a way into the mix again.
“I told him this is a great place for him,” Bryant said. “You talk about all the great centers this team has had. Now he’s the next in line.”
After an offseason when the Magic fired coach Stan Van Gundy and general manager Otis Smith, they’re now truly beginning anew. In 1996, the Magic watched Shaquille O’Neal sign as a free agent with the Lakers. At least this time, when they lost someone with the “Superman” nickname, they got something back.