Dwight Howard headed to Lakers
Dwight Howard headed to Lakers
LONDON (AP) — All-Star center Dwight Howard was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, the last act of his long, drawn-out departure from the Orlando Magic.
It took four teams, 12 players, five draft picks and countless rounds of talks with different clubs to get done, but it finally was completed Friday after the NBA reviewed and approved the deal.
“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.”
So after an offseason where the Magic fired coach Stan Van Gundy and general manager Otis Smith, now they’re truly beginning anew. Howard is gone as well, the second time the franchise has lost a big-man star to the Lakers.
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.
Even while otherwise busy at the London Olympics, L.A. star Kobe 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 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.”
A lot of players found new homes, including Andrew Bynum, sent by the Lakers to the Philadelphia 76ers. The 76ers sent Andre Iguodala — part of the U.S. Olympic team, set to play a semifinal game at the London Games on Friday — to the Denver Nuggets.
“I know my best basketball is ahead of me,” Iguodala wrote on Twitter.
Orlando got guard Arron Afflalo and forward Al Harrington from Denver, forward Moe Harkless and center Nikola Vucevic from Philadelphia, and forward Josh McRoberts and guard Christian Eyenga from the Lakers. The Lakers got Howard, guard Chris Duhon and forward Earl Clark from Orlando. The Magic also traded guard Jason Richardson to Philadelphia.
Orlando also gets five draft picks over five years.
“A primary goal for our basketball team is to achieve sustainability while maintaining a long-term vision. We feel this deal puts us in a position to begin building in that direction,” Magic general manager Rob Hennigan said. “In addition to the six players joining our team, we will be in a position to maximize our salary cap flexibility in the near future, as well as utilize the multiple draft picks we have acquired going forward.”
The Lakers pulled off the deal and somehow kept Pau Gasol in the process — something many didn’t expect when the Lakers first started getting mentioned in the Howard trade mix.
The trade was announced during the Spain-Russia semifinal matchup at the Olympics. Gasol scored 16 points, helping the Spanish team reach the gold medal game with a 67-59 win.
Afterward, that was secondary. He was still with the Lakers, and now has the game’s most dominant big man alongside him.
“That’s big news,” Gasol said. “Huge. I’ve been involved in so many talks and so many rumors. I feel relieved. I’m anxious and excited to be back with our team.”
The Magic said they were also getting a second-round draft pick from Denver next year, a first-round pick from either Denver or New York in 2014, a conditional first-round pick from Philadelphia and a conditional second-round pick from the Lakers in 2015, and a conditional first-round pick from the Lakers in 2017.
“Are we taking a step back? Absolutely, we are,” Magic general manager Rob Hennigan said. “But we’re taking a step back with a vision.”
Howard averaged 20.6 points and 14.5 rebounds in 54 regular-season games for Orlando last season. In eight seasons with the Magic, he averaged 18.4 points and 13.0 rebounds.
And he would figure to make the Lakers even more of a title contender.
AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney contributed.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.