It's time for Howard to force a trade

It's time for Dwight Howard to stop worrying about LeBron James' public fall from grace; about how "The Chosen One" went from being America's most beloved athlete to perhaps its most disliked. Howard's dance with the Orlando Magic appears to be more about public relations maneuvers rather than basketball.

Like a cat burglar, Howard continues to tiptoe around all the trade scenarios surrounding him because he doesn't want to suffer the kind of public backlash that hit James in 2010. Howard, like Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony before him, believes if he definitively states he wants to leave his current team, he'll be painted as a villain, as a hater of the Magic. Howard doesn't want to be seen, as Joakim Noah said, "Hollywood as hell."

But Howard should realize that departing Orlando won't leave him as scorned as James simply because everything is magnified when it comes to James. Because James is basketball's biggest superstar since Michael Jordan -- on and off the court -- his positives are more celebrated and his negatives more scrutinized. "Melo" and "CP3" put Denver and New Orleans through much more uncertainty and made more of a mess than James ever did, yet both suffered only a fraction of the criticism. In fact, outside of Denver and New Orleans, their relocations were celebrated.

Howard shouldn't worry. An exit from Orlando to a larger city probably won't hurt his brand. That being the case, it's time to end the charade. Howard needs to force a trade to the New Jersey Nets.