The Sixth Man: The 'Dwightmare' is over for now
By John McMullen, NBA Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The Dwightmare on Church Street is finally over.
After a year of drama which made LeBron James' "Decision" look quaint in comparison, the credits finally rolled on Orlando's personal horror movie on Friday when Magic general manager Rob Hennigan finalized a four-team blockbuster, which sent disgruntled superstar Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers.
The trade, which featured three different All-Stars, ended up with the . rich getting richer as the Lakers snagged the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year as well as Orlando point guard Chris Duhon and Magic forward Earl Clark.
Orlando and Hennigan received a haul which included Denver guard Arron Afflalo, Lakers forward Josh McRoberts, Nuggets forward Al Harrington, Philadelphia small forward Moe Harkless, Sixers center Nikola Vucevic, three future protected first-round picks, as well as a second-round pick from Denver.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, snared Lakers All-Star center Andrew Bynum and Orlando veteran swingman Jason Richardson; while the Nuggets got Sixers defensive stalwart and Olympian Andre Iguodala.
The Magic, of course, have been a legitimate NBA contender since Howard developed into perhaps the game's most dominant big man, topping out with a Finals berth in 2008-09 before succumbing to the Lakers.
Despite being ever so close to capturing the game's ultimate prize, at some point Howard decided winning an NBA title in Central Florida was going to be impossible, especially with a coach, Stan Van Gundy, he disdained and a general manager, Otis Smith, he felt didn't do enough to surround him with a championship-level supporting cast.
Back in May, Van Gundy was relieved of his duties, and Smith "mutually parted ways with the organization." Everything was done with an eye on keeping D-12 in the Sunshine State but Howard remained steadfast in telling Hennigan that Orlando was no longer an option.
Hennigan, the youngest GM in the NBA, understood the eventual end game but wavered, loathe to make a major mistake in what will likely be regarded as his most significant personnel move even if he spends the next 30 years in the league.
Rumored trades to Brooklyn -- Howard's desired destination -- and Los Angeles proved to be just that until the Lakers finally got it done by using the Sixers and Nuggets as facilitators.
Orlando's days of contending are certainly over for the time being and Hennigan's intent was to clear salary-cap space and rebuild through the draft, although Afflalo is certainly a contributor and both Harkless and Vucevic have some upside.
Case closed right?
While Howard is still set to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2012-13 season, the Lakers have secured his "Bird Rights" with the trade, meaning LA can offer Howard a five-year contract with 7.5 percent annual raises as opposed to a maximum of four years and 4.5 percent annual raises from any other team. The same is true for the Sixers and Bynum, who is also set to become a free agent.
That, along with the excitement of playing with players like Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, is probably enough to convince Howard that Southern California should be his long-term home.
Bryant, who is currently playing for Team USA in the London Olympics, took to his Facebook page to welcome Howard.
"Well, it looks like Superman has found a home," Bryant wrote. "The Lakers have landed a piece that will hopefully carry the franchise long after I'm gone. I have spoken to Dwight Howard, and we are locked and loaded to hopefully bring back the title."
Like any good antagonist in a horror flick, however, Howard may want his sequel and where better to stage it than Hollywood.
The big man has said time and time again that he would only sign a long-term extension with Brooklyn and if he has proven anything during this ordeal, it's that he's stubborn and headstrong.
"Dwightmare II" is still on the books for release in the summer of 2013.
08/10 13:34:17 ET