New Jersey Nets
The hunters may have become the hunted at the NBA trade deadline and the Nets appear to have lost a great deal of leverage in this summer’s free agent bonanza. Dwight Howard staying in Orlando could mean a lot of things (as we’ll discuss in a moment) but one thing it means for sure is that Deron Williams is now set to be the unquestioned star of this summer’s free agent class. Also worth noting that the allure of Howard in Orlando and the absence of state income taxes may have the Magic envisioning the Howard/Williams pairing in their mix all of a sudden. It also sets the stage for Williams to be the one who bolts for a team in free agency sparing them the pain of gutting themselves to get him by trade instead of Howard (which appeared to be the prevailing theory just one week ago). If Orlando isn’t in the cards for D-Will, Dallas still could be as his home and another state without income taxes. Whatever the case, New Jersey is facing the very real possibility of having rented Williams for two years only to lose him without attracting another star into the mix. That is sure to have their fans (and execs) at the ledge.
Magic you’re no better off for having Dwight Howard around for one-year, unless you make it count. The daily banterings and bumblings of Dwight Howard have seemingly left many either put-off, generally annoyed or genuinely confused. The only thing seemingly more tiresome and confusing than Howard’s day-to-day whimsy was that the Magic continued to allow (in some cases enable) it. Rather than using the last two years to either secure a firm commitment from Howard or to parlay his talents for something of value, the Magic have meandered though the process in a way that would make Dan Gilbert and the Cavs proud, but that has their fans in a panic. Speculation and innuendo went to the 11th hour and are anything but resolved with Howard electing to stay around for just one more season. Maybe Howard will attract Deron Williams or some other star into the mix this summer and then elect to stay himself. Maybe he’ll exercise the leverage they supposedly offered him and oust Stan Van Gundy and/or Otis Thorpe. Or maybe (and most likely) the next year of Orlando Magic basketball will be much like the last two with ongoing speculation as to what Dwight Howard is thinking. That’s enough to drive anyone to the ledge.
Alex Smith has to be approaching the ledge after spending the bulk of his career as a punch line about what not to do with the top pick in the NFL draft. Smith and the 49ers seemed to find their grooves and redeem their reputations under head coach Jim Harbaugh this season despite an absence of perceivable talent at the wide receiver position. Now with Randy Moss and Mario Manningham in the arsenal it seems that the Niners have turned their affections toward Peyton Manning and the hope and credibility that he represents. Meanwhile Smith and the Miami Dolphins, both suffering from a Manning complex, may have to settle on each other. That likely has both at the ledge.