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Re-evaluating Tommy Sheppard’s `quickest trade of my life’

A few comments on the discussion regarding the way the Wizards traded Dwight Howard.

Utah Jazz v Orlando Magic

First, I want to thank all the readers who commented on yesterday’s piece on the Dwight Howard trade. Their comments made me realize there is a point or two to clarify.

First, I think some of the confusion could be from the fact that the original title of my piece was actually quite different than the one that appeared after edits. It was: ``Re-evaluating Tommy Sheppard’s `quickest trade of my life’, in contrast to the eventual title ``Re-evaluating the Wizards’ decision to trade Dwight Howard: Was it really worth it?”

Also, the lead art picture I originally intended was a vintage picture with both CJ Miles and Dwight Howard in it, to emphasize that the piece was as much about the decision to bring in Miles as it was about sending Howard out. So if you’re wondering why we’re seeing a picture of Miles in a Grizzlies jersey and Howard in a Magic one (!!!!), that’s why.

So, first and foremost, I was not questioning in any serious way whether Sheppard was right in parting ways with Howard. That was pretty much a consensus move by most accounts. The question I raised was more about the how Sheppard parted ways with Howard.

More precisely, the two questions I was trying to raise were whether

(1) it was worth paying $3.1 million in salary in order to get Howard off the roster and get CJ Miles in exchange, and

(2) whether it was wise to make the off-hand comment later to the press that potentially put Howard on the spot.

In fact, the route Sheppard picked was not to simply either

(a) waive Howard, or

(b) excuse Howard from team activities until a buy-out partner emerges.

This was the first question of my piece: why did Sheppard not choose either option (a) or option (b)?

Either one of these alternative options would equally get Sheppard the outcome he wanted (remove Howard from the team and start a `re-boot’) and at the same time instead of costing $3.1 million actually cost the organization nil or even bring in some cash. As it turned out (of course, in hindsight) a buy-out was eventually available so this decision cost the Wizards around $5 million.

With that kind of cash the organization could have, e.g., brought in a new head coach and actually started a cultural re-boot in earnest. Or, it could have brought in 1-2 second-rounders. Or, something else.

Finally, there was another question I raised about Sheppard’s comment on the trade. Trying to start a cultural re-boot is a novel goal. But while doing that it is probably a bit strange to make a comment that could potentially be interpreted as negative towards one of your own (former) players. Sheppard famously announced this was

``the quickest trade I’ve ever done in my life.”

As Chris Cwik put it, Sheppard’s decision to make that comment to ESPN was a bit unusual:

Sheppard did not expand on his comment, so it’s unclear whether Howard’s personality played a role in the trade. Still, it’s weird that Sheppard would even say that in the first place. By doing so, Sheppard created some drama surrounding the situation. He could have cleared that up by being more descriptive, but he kept it vague. Given Howard’s track record, people might make assumptions.