By Spike Eskin

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – I love NBA basketball. I love NBA basketball so much that I get unreasonably defensive when people criticize its faults. But this Dwight Howard stuff, this Carmelo Anthony stuff, it makes me sick to my stomach. It’s spun out of control, and it’s everyone’s fault.

There is nothing I can defend about the behavior of players and owners in the days leading up to the trade deadline. It makes players look outrageously selfish, owners unbelievably foolish, and makes fans look like lemmings, obvious victims of a game that doesn’t care.

I was on the air on 94WIP last night, and as I came back from commercial, Dwight Howard was on the television. I glanced up to see that he’d changed his mind again, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I opened the mic and said, “I’m sick of Dwight Howard’s stupid, smiling face.” I know my last name’s Eskin, but that’s not really my style. It was just how I felt.

He’s staying, he’s going, he’s staying, he’s going, he’s staying again. I didn’t care where he went as long as I didn’t have to hear about it anymore. Dwight Howard seems to be a pleasant person. He doesn’t shoot free throws very well, and he may not be as concerned with winning as you’d like a superstar to be, but still a nice person and great basketball player.

He’s got every right to change teams after becoming a free agent, and Orlando has every right to get something for him before he does.

And yet he seems like something of a monster during this process, and the Magic look like helpless fools. Monsters and fools can’t even begin to describe how Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks front office look this week.

Most people want some kind of guarantee or system in place that prevents this type of thing from happening, and that’s impossible. Short of non-guaranteed contracts, which will never happen, there are no rules you can put into place to stop this. This is big money, free agency, in a sport where having the best players is more important than anything else.

Since the rules can’t stop this, it comes down to the character and will of the players and the owners. The players must stop commenting publicly on where they may want to play. They must stop leaking their desires to reporters in order to gain leverage. The teams must keep that same promise, and refrain from negotiating trades in the press, and giving into every trade request that a player makes. Until that point we’re stuck with it. And we as fans need to stop insisting on asking the same questions, day after day, and expecting different answers.

Until then, we’re stuck with Melo-drama (Parts 1 and 2), The Decision and the Dwight Howard Drama. And it gives all of those people who hate the game, reason to shove it in our faces.

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