Otis Smith has to be getting nervous. Every day that passes without any sort of movement in the labor talks ups the odds of a prolonged work stoppage. Every day he loses is another day that he didn't improve the team around Dwight Howard. Every day that passes puts him one step closer to the worst case scenario, ...losing the whole season, and then losing Howard.
Of course one man's torture is another man's coveted treasure. The Celtics will be one of several teams that will have the cap space to offer to Dwight whatever the maximum you can pay a free agent. In addition to truckloads of cash, they'll also have a pure point guard star in Rajon Rondo and a Championship coach that everyone loves in Doc Rivers. Danny Ainge has already done what Otis Smith has failed to do, assemble a championship team. With Dwight and Rajon in the fold there's every reason to believe he could do it again.
With all that said, the odds of Howard ending up in Boston would still have to be considered long at best.
For one thing, the Magic still have to be considered the leaders in this race. For one thing, they will be given every financial advantage possible. The just-expired CBA already allowed teams to retain their free agents with one more year than any other team. This next CBA promises to increase the home team advantage one way or another. Be it through a modified "franchise tag" or "super Bird rights" or perhaps by eliminating the sign-and-trade option. The league is not happy with the perception that players are pulling the strings and they'll do whatever they can to wrestle that control back from them.
For another thing, despite the contracts of Gilber Arenas and Hedo Turkoglu, the Magic will still have Jameer Nelson, Stan Van Gundy, and an entire system built around Howard's talents (and masking his weaknesses). There's familiarity there and that counts for something.
Finally, and this is purely speculation, there's the issue of Howard's personality. Reading a recent article in ESPN the Mag about Howard I was struck by how much he craves attention and adoration. He's obsessed with it. Like any class clown, his every move is focused on bringing as many eyeballs and praises his way. (Hey, I'm a blogger, I have to admit I've got the same bug, though not to his level.) So do you think he can handle the kind of hatred that LeBron James got post-Decision? Frankly I'm not sure he can handle a whole season of answering questions about it with it hanging over his head like Carmelo Anthony had to last year.
Right now, if I had to guess, I'd say that once the new CBA gets put into place, Howard and the Magic will probably find some way to make everyone happy. Perhaps they'll give Howard an out clause after a couple of years. Maybe he'll re-allocate money in his deal to give the Magic more cap flexibility. One way or another, the Magic have "first dibs" and a big head start on keeping Howard in Orlando.
Still, with all that said, if Howard does make it to free agency and decides to leave Disney behind, the Celtics have as good a shot as anyone. So that has to at least be one of the top choices on Danny Ainge's war room charts.
All of which begs the question... what if we don't get Howard? What's plan B? Or rather, what are plans B through Z? Because anything could happen a year from now, regardless of if there is going to be a season or not.
I could end this article right here by saying something along the lines of "we'll just have to wait and see how this all plays out." But hey, we've got time, lets discuss the endless options.
One option is to throw money at other free agents. The danger here is overpaying just because you have the money. Ask Joe Dumars how that worked out with Ben Gordon and Charlie V. The only other potential free agents that are in Howard's class of player are Deron Williams and Chris Paul and they both happen to play Rondo's position. So unless we're trading Rondo, that's not going to happen.
Of course trading Rondo is another (though less desirable) option. He would be our last and perhaps only trading chip left and if he's not in the mood for a full rebuilding effort, then it might be worth it to get what you can for him. Keep in mind, after his rookie season Rondo has known nothing but winning and competing for titles. Would he be happy going back in the pack, even if it meant finally being recognized as the main man?
Still, I have to assume that Rondo will want to keep playing for Doc and he'll trust Danny to put the right pieces around him. What are the right pieces? Well, they look a lot like the pieces we currently have, but younger. A sharpshooter, a shot creating small forward, a defensive minded big man or two. Maybe we can get Eric Gordon out of LA. Maybe we could take Rudy Gay off of Memphis' hands. Andrew Bogut? Roy Hibbert?
If none of these names inspire goosebumps and you are realistic enough to discount the chances of getting Durant or Blake Griffin, then we might be looking at the draft (and thus a long rebuild plan).
So what are your thoughts? Dwight Howard or bust? What's your Plan B?