Dwight Howard Staying with Magic with Championship in Sight

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Dwight Howard expressed his loyalty to the Orlando Magic on Thursday, although it was clear that he only did so for a certain reason.

He agreed not to opt out of the final year of a contract with Magic, wherein he will be paid $19.2 million next season, and was asked why, if he loved Orlando so much, he did not negotiate for a long-term extension.

Howard said that he wanted to win a championship, and that it was the only thing that mattered to him.

With that said, the agreement that the Magic announced a news conference at Amway Center a few hours following the team’s arrival home from San Antonio became more like a temporary compromise instead of a long-term solution: a compromise that seemed to work in the best way possible for what had seemingly become burdensome to both sides.

With the team’s power of maneuvering an upgrade to the roster having been jeopardized by an over-expanded payroll and a lack of star players other than Howard, Howard’s eagerness to withdraw a trade demand that was made in December gives the team time allowance for making changes. It also temporarily gets rid of the threat of Howard’s leaving as a free agent while the team gets nothing in return, which had been the nightmare that the team underwent with Shaquille O’Neal in 1996.

Alex Martins, chief executive of the Magic, said that they did not want to let their fans suffer what they did with O’Neal in the mid-1990s.

Martins had been the one who helped repair the deteriorating relationship between the front office and Howard, as he had been with the Magic in a capacity of public relations during the time when O’Neal left for Los Angeles. But he made it clear that the team was not rolling the dice for keeping their star center if he did not commit to another season in contract form.

Meanwhile, Howard had been thought of as wanting to join the Nets with his friend Deron Williams next season. His staying with Magic means that he can steer clear of the possibility of being in New Jersey sitting out the playoffs. Still, he can insist his trade demand again as early as the summer, should the Magic not perform well in the playoffs and not be able to make significant changes by the time of the NBA draft.

Howard was quoted as saying, “I’ll deal with it [when the time comes].”

His decision to stay turned out to be a painful blow to the Nets, who apparently had been relying on Howard’s coming, whether by free agency or trade. His coming into the team would have assured them of getting to sign Williams again, as Williams also had one year left on his contract with a right to leave. It is possible that Williams would decide on a similar approach as Howard did, staying for one more season, but in his case, it might result in his missing three consecutive postseasons.

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