It has come to this.
Two men, who as recently as 2 years ago, I would have labeled as my 2 favorite superstars in the NBA are starting to make the #1 villain in the Association look good by comparison.
In a week in which both March Madness and NFL Free Agency should be relegating the NBA to the tennis section of my sporting fan brain I just can’t get over Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony.
It isn’t so much the latest Melo-drama about him being unhappy and potentially wanting out of his dream destination of Manhattan that is bothering me. Let’s face it; being surprised that Melo is unhappy because things aren’t perfect in New York is like being surprised that your husband is cheating on you after you met him by having an affair with him while he was married to someone else.
A zebra can’t change its stripes.
It is rather Howard’s actions in Orlando which re-shine the spotlight on Melo’s actions a year ago at this time.
Dwight Howard is a pleaser. His big-grin and happy go-lucky demeanor make him easy to like, root for and criticize for being soft. He doesn’t possess the death stare of a Kobe or Jordan. He just seems like a freakishly built kid having fun out there.
(oh lord, I sound like a writer talking about Brett Favre. Shoot me, SHOOT ME NOW!)
But Dwight wants out of Orlando, after years of being unable to build a team around him that can compete with the Bulls or Heat. Yet, Dwight doesn’t want to hurt Magic fans by saying it. Now he is saying he wants to stay the full season rather than get traded. He wants to be the good guy, who sticks around and ‘tries to win it all’ for the fans before he leaves.
What a sacrifice.
In reality he doesn’t want his hand-picked destination to mortgage its entire future to bring him in. He saw what happened to the Knicks after trading for Melo. Acquiring Melo cost the Knicks so much that now the Nuggets – the team he left – is better than the team he joined.
As a Nugget season ticket holder – thanks for that by the way.
Dwight doesn’t want to get to New Jersey/Brooklyn and find a team so broke that 4 members of the Washington Generals and Jay-Z’s 3rd cousin are his running mates.
But he won’t admit that. Instead he would rather hem-haw, smile and pretend to want something for the Magic fans.
What a joke. Rather than standing up, being a man and clearly stating his intentions so that the Magic can make a decision to actually get something for him, he is doing his best to ensure that when he leaves town, the Magic will basically be the NBA equivalent of a Florida sink hole.
Melo did the same thing a year ago, not willing to publicly state what everyone knew: that he wanted to play in New York. The difference is that the Nuggets were determined to get something for him and found a sucker partner in the Knicks not willing to roll the dice they could wait and get their man in free agency.
All of these shenanigans are all a direct result of the The Decision by LeBron two years ago. Seeing the virulent reactions of LeBron’s scorned hometown fans and the vitriol even non-partisan fans felt for LeBron, every star in the NBA now says “I don’t want to be hated like that”. They are still chasing where they want to work. They just want to avoid throwing a Molotov cocktail at their fans on the way out of town.
So now, we get months and months of rumor and innuendo from a player that wants to stay beloved but get what they want.
Sorry fellas. It doesn’t work that way. Either you stay or you go.
It is hard for me to say, but all of this pathetic unwillingness to step on some toes actually makes me respect LeBron a little more. In no way will I give him credit for doing it intentionally – as proven by the shock that The Decision was received poorly – but his approach is actually better.
LeBron flatly refused any discussion of free agency during the season. The fans – misguided as it may have been – were able to truly enjoy a season that seemed so promising. LBJ’s free agency was something to worry about in the future.
That LeBron was ultimately a gutless coward in the playoffs who feigned injury rather than admit to being checked out and then a month later made a mockery of the word loyalty on national television is almost beside the point.
He was going to prove his cowardice and deception sooner or later. But at least he pulled off the band-aid in a single quick motion rather than peeling it off one hair at a time over the course of an entire year.
Dwight and Melo want the best of both worlds – remain good guys but also spurn a team and fan base for their own desires.
There are no shades of grey. Neither have done enough to warrant a Ray Bourque memorial congratulatory billboard.
At least LeBron, though completely unintended, made a complete switch from super hero to super villain.
I just wish Dwight would quit trying to remain SuperMan while acting like Lex Luthor.