The Orlando Sentinel is Still Struggling Coming to Grips with the Fact that Dwight Howard is Leaving

The entire Orlando Sentinel sports staff has been hammering this Dwight Howard free agency situation for at least a year now, and they’re consistent in their subtle bashing of the league (they must prevent Dwight from leaving like Shaq did!) and Howard. In a column this weekend, George Diaz of the Sentinel actually tried to say the NBA sucks because it isn’t the NFL. Earth-shattering stuff.

The NFL thrives because teams can keep their stars. The NBA flounders because it can’t.

Wrong. The NFL is the perfect TV product and there are only 16 games. You spend 3 hours a week (usually every Sunday, when you’re home, anyway) watching your favorite team. It is not a massive commitment. Unlike the NBA and MLB, every game is very significant.

Small market teams in the NBA rarely keep their stars (a moment of appreciation for David Robinson, please). But thanks to a hard salary cap and franchise tags on star players, small market teams in the NFL remain strong and viable in the championship chase. Just ask the Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, St. Louis Rams and Tampa Bay Bucs. All teams have won Super Bowls since 2000.

In the NBA, one player can change a franchise. That never happens in the NFL (though I’ll hear your arguments for Peyton Manning). Five starters in the NBA vs. 22 starters on offense and defense in the NFL. That’s the reason the paper is so desperate to cling to Howard. He’s the franchise. He gives them hope. He has the ability to sell out arenas and sell newspapers and generate clicks. He got the Magic to the Finals in 2009. No Howard = irrelevance, like those lean years between Shaq and Dwight Howard, despite the best efforts of Tracy McGrady (since Shaq walked out through Howard’s third season: six playoff appearances, 0-6 in said appearances).

You’re losing Dwight Howard. Get over it. The NBA will continue to thrive. So will the NFL. The NBA doesn’t “suck” because Dwight Howard is leaving Orlando. I look forward to read a mea culpa from this clown Diaz if Oklahoma City (small market!) wins a title.

What if Orlando doesn’t draft Fran Vasquez in 2005? JJ Redick has been a nice player, but the 2006 draft had other quality players the Magic missed on. We could go on and on about botched trades and moves in free agency. But I’ll spare George Diaz the embarrassment. Hey George – there’s life after LeBron in Cleveland. There will be life after Dwight in Orlando, too.

[Orlando Sentinel; Photo: Yes, this is LeBron in a Browns jersey.]

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