First Cup: Friday

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: The Dwight Howard drama is over with Thursday’s blockbuster trade (pending league approval.) Our National Dwightmare is over — at least that’s what everybody says outside of Orlando. We know better. It will never be over, not really. Like Shaq’s exit, it will never ever leave a Magic fan’s subconscious. It will haunt. Time marches on, more players will come and go, but the wound in Orlando never fully heals. To have it happen once during your history is bad enough. But twice? The Magic losing the league’s best big man again? And to the Lakers? Again? Heck, Howard didn’t even want to follow Shaq’s path and go to L.A. He just ran out of destinations. This deja’ Dwight is cruel and unusual punishment for Magic faithful. ... This is Phase I of the Magic makeover. Phase II comes with the Harrington trade and perhaps a deal involving J.J. Redick, who is in the last year of his contract. The Magic can shed more salary by unloading Redick’s $6 million. And now they better tank this season and next — playing the young guys a lot — to get top lottery picks. For Magic fans, the club that is testing your patience is asking for more of it for the next three or four seasons.

  • George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: Frankly, I don’t know of anyone in Central Florida who cares anymore. Fans are over it. The media is over it. Magic management are over it. The kids that Howard blew off in his camp are over it. My cat Moe is over it. Anyone not over it? Howard has long overstayed his welcome. In the end, the Magic simply weren’t good enough, although the team certainly tried to put the pieces together to win a title. They rolled the dice by tweaking and eventually blowing up a team that advanced to 2009 NBA Finals. Vince Carter, Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, and a Hedo-Redo with Mr. Turoglu were all major moves that backfired. ... Superman appears to be long gone, just like 16 years ago. Sigh of relief for everybody, even if the migraine lingers for a while.

  • Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News: So I was having a late dinner right across the street from the Miami Heat's home arena Thursday when my phone starts blowing up with word that sources have confirmed Dwight Howard is coming to Los Angeles to play for the Lakers. I have to admit I looked over to American Airlines Arena and thought: the Lakers will likely be seeing quite a bit of that place next June.That is, after I muttered to my wife we picked the wrong week to take vacation. Wow, just wow. Did the Lakers just through a whammy at the rest of the NBA, and specifically a certain LeBron James-led Heat team that just brought the world championship to South Beach less than two months ago? In one giant roll of the dice, the Lakers called in all their favors by enlisting the help of three other teams to cobble together a deal that brings Howard, the best center in the game, to the Lakers to team with Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace in one of the strongest starting fives in recent NBA history. ... In essence, next year becomes a feeling-out period for Howard to see how Los Angeles fits him, and while anything is possible you have to figure he'll decide the allure and business opportunities of L.A. will fit like a glove. The Lakers, with all their history and cache, are banking as much. All that remains to be seen. What we do know is pending league approval today, the Lakers just jumped back into the championship mix in a serious way.

  • Jeff Miller of The Orange County Register: Because they always sign Shaquille O’Neal, always trade for Pau Gasol, always hire Phil Jackson (not once, but twice), always do things like Kupchak just did … that’s why everyone who isn’t a fan of the Lakers hates the Lakers. Kupchak added the best center in the NBA without having to give up one of the game’s most gifted big men in Gasol. He picked up a near-certainty in Howard to replace an always-uncertainty in Andrew Bynum. Armed with the knowledge that he had to do something, Kupchak managed to do only everything. ... The Lakers had three stars last season, failed to advance past the second round of the playoffs and were facing an impossible task in trying to improve. With a flash of lightning and — wait for it, wait for it, wait for it — a clap of thunder, they now have four stars. That’s just how they do it — the admirable, lovable, hatable Lakers.

  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: The Lakers essentially exchanged Bynum and Lamar Odom for Howard and point guard Steve Nash — an undeniable upgrade. The Lakers did concede some financial and draft considerations in that swap, but the sign-and-trade deal for Nash to spark the Lakers' offense came about via the trade exception acquired from Dallas for Odom. Getting Howard without having to give up much more than Bynum or take on burdensome overpaid players was the Lakers' stance all along. ... The one certainty is next season. And Howard almost single-handedly can make Coach Mike Brown's defense-first principles look overwhelming. Howard is the only player in NBA history to win the Defensive Player of the Year award three consecutive seasons (2009-11).

  • Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times: With the Lakers acquiring Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic, they followed through on Mitch Kupchak's vow that "we'll try to hit a home run." The Lakers didn't just belt one out of the park. After acquiring the Steve Nash, signing reserve Antawn Jamison to the veteran's minimum, keeping key reserve Jordan Hill and retaining Pau Gasol, the Lakers hit a grand slam. Suddenly, the botched Chris Paul trade that led many to believe the NBA's involvement set the organization back at least five years seems irrelevant. See, the Lakers are championship favorites entering the 2012-13 season with a roster that looks more dangerous than how the team would've looked had NBA Commissioner David Stern not interfered last season. ... To think, it seemed only three months ago after an early playoff exit to the Oklahoma City Thunder that the Lakers' championship aura was crumbling. But Kupchak, executive Jim Buss and owner Jerry Buss didn't let that happen. ... The Lakers are suddenly back in familar territory again. They are NBA championship favorites.

  • John N. Mitchell of The Philadelphia Inquirer: Criticized for their lack of involvement in the free-agency market, the 76ers on Thursday night took part in the biggest trade of the offseason, acquiring Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum in a four-team trade. The Sixers also acquired veteran shooting guard Jason Richardson in the deal. In order to acquire Bynum and Richardson, the Sixers dealt Andre Iguodala to Denver; Nik Vucevic to Orlando; and this year's first-round pick, Maurice Harkless, was also dealt to Orlando. The Lakers acquired Dwight Howard, and the Magic also acquired Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington and one protected future first-round pick from each of the other three teams. The deal makes the Sixers, who extended the Boston Celtics to a Game 7 in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs this past season, one of the bigger and more athletic teams in the league.

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: It will forever be called the Dwight Howard trade — Orlando's long, national Dwightmare is over — but in Denver, it will be called the Andre Iguodala trade, the day the Nuggets put the D back in Denver. One of the worst defensive teams a season ago, Denver now has one of the league's best perimeter defenders in Iguodala, who comes to the Nuggets via Thursday's complicated four team trade, a source confirmed. ... The deal will be questioned by some fans for a pair of reasons. For one, Denver essentially helped conference rival L.A. get better by getting involved in the trade. But the Nuggets, it seems, saw this solely as an opportunity to better themselves - an opportunity they might not otherwise have had. And, frankly, with the Dwightmare plaguing Orlando, it's possible that he would end up a Laker regardless, so Denver at least took advantage of the deal to improve its own lineup.

  • Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle: I know some of you are going to talk about how Howard changes the Lakers defensively, but don’t forget the great defense the Rockets will get from Omer Asik. He’s just like Howard. I mean, aside from the jumping ability, quickness and hands, they are virtually the same player. I know Asik played only 14 minutes a game, but according to the Rockets metrics, a set of formulas you aren’t smart enough to understand, it was among the best 14 minutes a game in NBA history. ... The Rockets tried and failed to get Howard, but what’s that saying, it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all? In Daryl Morey’s case, it’s more like asking the prettiest girl in the joint to dance, getting laughed at and tossed out of the club by bouncers. But at least he didn’t go home alone. He picked up Asik working the parking lot. And there is no need to be upset about the Lakers getting what they want. Haven’t they always? It just gives you another reason to hate them. As if you needed any more.