Just hours before the NBA's most untradable contract was dealt to the Brooklyn Nets for little more than spare parts, Dwight Howard informed the Orlando Magic that if would only sign an extension with one team. If you've been paying attention to the Howard saga throughout its long, annoying process, you know that team is Brooklyn. But with the Nets only able to offer a sorry package centered around Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks and three first-round picks, reports on Tuesday morning had the Magic trying to get as many teams involved as possible.
So we ask: should the Bulls trade for Dwight Howard even without the promise of an extension?
Dwight Howard is difficult, but you already know this. The NBA's only elite center should have every team in the league jumping at the chance to attain his services, though Howard apparently owns a group of petty biases that seemingly eliminates anyone outside of Brooklyn. He won't play for the Bulls because of Derrick Rose's presence (huh? Does Howard care even a little bit about winning?), or possibly because their mutual shoe sponsor won't let him (OK). He won't play for the Lakers because Shaq used to play for the Lakers, and Lord knows Howard has swagger-jacked O'Neil enough already.
At the moment, Howard's "list" -- I like to think such a thing tangibly exists, hopefully on a napkin -- is only said to include the Nets and Dallas Mavericks. But if Orlando refuses to trade the big man to his preferred destination in Brooklyn for a highly underwhelming offer, perhaps the Bulls could turn this lost season around by dealing everything in sight for one year of Howard with the pie-in-the-sky hope of getting him to sign an extension.
Perhaps the extension isn't so unlikely. After all, if Deron Williams stays in Brooklyn alongside Gerald Wallace and the newly acquired Joe Johnson, the Nets would appear highly improbable to be able to sign Howard as a free agent, save for using some dirty exceptions that are more trouble at the moment than they're worth for this little exercise. This is about the Bulls, and risking whatever the team has on a single guaranteed season of Howard. If nothing else, it would be a nice way to infuse some enthusiasm into what's already being called The Lost Season nearly five months before it begins.
Here's the crux of the Bulls' issue, and why dealing for Howard without an extension might make sense: the Bulls are said to want salary cap flexibility, yeah? Dealing for Howard is a sure-fire way to get it. Even if the big man leaves town after one season, the Bulls will have rid themselves of the big contracts of Luol Deng and/or Joakim Noah (yay?), which would likely put the team in position to make a splashy, max-level free agent signing in 2013-2014. Best case scenario? Howard likes his time in Chicago and agrees to an extension after the season. Rose and Howard kill everything in sight and Chicago is a happier place.
Actually getting Howard to the Bulls is a bit we find too annoying to even play with at the moment, but there's certainly smarter people who are more adept at ESPN's Trade Machine that could conceivably cook up an offer from Chicago that's more appealing that what Brooklyn is currently offering. Blog-a-Bull tackled this issue last week, and here's what they came up with:
It's not an easy decision, which means the Bulls are likely to play it safe and stay out of the running for Howard. Which is fine, I suppose. After seeing some of the contract throws at big men during this free agency period, you could argue Noah is underpaid now. The Bulls probably don't want to lose him for a one-and-done season from Howard.
Still, given the way Howard's mind can seemingly change on a whim, who's to rule out an extension in Chicago? Food for thought, if nothing else.