ORLANDO, Fla. -- It's been a little more than a week now since we last saw Dwight Howard, who, at the time, was agitated during the Orlando Magic's exit interviews when members of the local media asked him questions about his future.
He didn't want to talk about it. He became annoyed. Finally, he'd had enough, cut off the interviews and walked away into one of the most uncertain Magic off-seasons in history.
Let us hope Magic GM Otis Smith has more productive conversations with Dwight about his future than the Orlando media did.
Don't get me wrong, it's certainly understandable Dwight did not want to delve into his plans with the media only a day after the Magic were shockingly ousted from the first round of the playoffs. The wound of losing was still bleeding and hadn't had a chance to scab over. The fact that it was a loss to his hometown Atlanta Hawks was even more galling. Atlanta, after all, is the team Dwight grew up following. He remembers the Hawks as the perennially hapless franchise that has been irrelevant for generations.
Besides, Dwight is not obligated to tell the media what his mindset is and what his plans are. But, hopefully, he feels differently about Magic management. Hopefully, he feels a sense of obligation to tell Smith what he is thinking. Sooner rather than later. In fact, every time Smith meets with Dwight, he should have Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers singing one of their most famous songs piped into the office:
"I need to know. I need to know.
"If you think you're gonna leave then you better say so."
Obviously, everybody in town -- fans, media, arena vendors, etc. -- hope Dwight stays. That is everybody's wish. But smart franchises hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
If Dwight wants to leave, then hopefully the Magic will press him to handle it like Carmelo Anthony did in Denver and not like LeBron James did in Cleveland.
Carmelo gave the Nuggets plenty of notice. He gave them a chance to shop him around and get something out of him. He didn't leave the franchise in total ruins like LeBron did. The Nuggets are still playoff-caliber. The Cavs were 19-63.
Dwight has the right to do whatever he wants. There's no rule that says he has to make his decision before his contract actually runs out after next season. He can leave the Magic wondering, waiting and worrying until the 11th hour if he wants, too. But I am confident he won't handle it so callously. He's not that type of guy. He says he loves the city and the fans of Orlando, which means he will leave the franchise in as good a shape as possible if he decides to leave.
That means giving Smith and team CEO Bob Vander Weide the heads-up this summer so they can proceed accordingly. That's not asking too much, is it?
I don't agree with those who say the Magic have to go out and add another superstar just to show Dwight they are serious about winning. The Magic have already shown they are serious about winning. They have the fifth-highest payroll in professional sports behind just two pro soccer teams from Spain, the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Lakers. Yes, they've made some bad personnel decisions, but they have more than shown they are financially serious about winning.
Dwight knows this organization. He knows the supporting cast he has around him. He knows if decides to stay the Magic will do everything in their financial power to go get him another superstar.
But Dwight needs to make his decision first because, quite frankly, another superstar is not coming to Orlando unless Dwight is still here. He is the magnet that must attract another superstar. He must become like a college basketball coach and use his allure and charm to recruit a five-star prospect to join him in Orlando.
Let's be honest, why would a franchise point guard like Chris Paul or Deron Williams come to Orlando if Dwight is going to L.A.? This just in: Star players don't come to midsized markets unless they have a chance to win a championship. And, let's face it, the Magic, without Dwight, have no chance of winning a championship for years to come.
This might sound corny in this day and age of "The Decision" when athletes are looking for the maximum amount of exposure and Twitter followers, but Dwight needs to quickly tell the Magic his plans for this reason:
Because it is the noble, classy and right thing to do.