Dwight Howard, a.k.a. Superman, has been the subject of trade rumors for the past years, with every NBA fan outside of Orlando hoping the six-time All-Star center will join their team. There are plenty of teams Howard could join, including the Los Angeles Lakers, the New Jersey Nets and the Dallas Mavericks, but with the 3 p.m. deadline looming, it looks like the NBA's reigning Defensive Player of the Year will indeed stay with the Orlando Magic -- at least for the rest of this season.
Sources say Howard told Orlando management on Wednesday that he indeed wants to stick with the Magic through at least the rest of this season. In order to stay, Howard and his agent Dan Fegan will need to sign a waiver of the early termination option (ETO) in his contract. Otherwise, the Magic organization will assume that Howard does not plan on staying and will look to trade him before today's 3 p.m. NBA trade deadline.
Originally, Howard agreed to sign the waiver, and even told his Magic teammates he'd do so. But late yesterday afternoon, Howard reportedly had a change of heart, and told the team he was not ready to sign the waiver.
Dwight has chosen not to waive his ETO under pressure from the team that he might be traded, Fegan said. However, Dwight expressed once again on a call today with the DeVos family and Alex Martins that he very much desires to pursue a championship this year with the Magic. Dwight also expressed that he had no intention of leaving the Magic high and dry at the end of the season.
After last night's loss against the San Antonio Spurs, Howard again changed his mind, telling the team he was ready to stay. Since Howard's decision came late in the night, team executives urged Howard to sleep on his decision, and meet with the team again Thursday morning to consider signing the waiver.
They did not want him to sign the paper at 3 a.m., one anonymous source close to the Magic told ESPN.com's Chris Broussard. They wanted him to sleep on it and come back with a clear head in the morning.
The source added, They should have had him sign it.
All of the trade talk about Dwight Howard has been stressful for the Magic organization, and Howard is fully aware and apologetic that his decision to stay in or leave Orlando has become a distraction for the team.
I have gotten some bad advice, Howard told RealGM.com. I apologize for this circus I have caused to the fans of our city. They didn't deserve none of this. I'm sorry from the bottom of my heart. I will do whatever I can to make this right and do what I was put in Orlando to do.
Howard loves Orlando -- he's a lovable guy -- but it's understandable why he's so hesitant to commit to the Magic for an extended period. This decision -- to stay or to leave -- is the most important of his life, so far. After playing with the Magic for seven years and only appearing in the NBA Finals once (in 2009), Howard, who is arguably one of the most athetic big men in the history of the league, wants to solidify his legacy with a few championship rings. Howard sees how superstars like LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony have taken advantage of free agency and trade rumors to get what they want, and he wants to do the same.
Howard is having an incredible year, averaging about 21 points and 15 rebounds a game. But as has been the case in previous years, his surrounding role players, despite exceptions like Ryan Anderson and J.J. Redick, have been lackluster.
Howard knows that he could be the centerpiece (literally) of a championship team, but he doesn't have much confidence in the Orlando organization, including GM Otis Smith and coach Stan Van Gundy. Meanwhile, other regions of the NBA look far more exciting to Howard, especially the New Jersey Nets, which will move to Brooklyn, New York next season and undergo a major make-over, courtesy of co-owner Jay-Z.
Then again, Howard could move to Dallas this summer, considering that the Mavericks are the defending NBA Champions and have plenty of powerful role players on their roster to reel in even more rings. Or Howard might want to go to Los Angeles, switching in for either Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum, and help Kobe win his sixth ring.
There are so many options for Howard, but in the end, it makes the most sense for him to stay in Orlando for the rest of this season. In free agency, Howard can join a good team without having to sacrifice any players from their roster. If Howard is traded away today by 3 p.m., the team that gets Howard will have to give the Magic something of equal value, which would most likely be a handful of good role players.
Even though it makes more sense for Howard to stay in Orlando, the Magic won't want to trade him, just in case Howard in fact does want to stay. Howard is the biggest (literally and figuratively) player on the Magic, and losing him mid-season would nix any chances for Orlando to get far in the playoffs, especially with Chicago and Miami so powerful right now.
So hopefully, for both their sakes, Howard will remain a Magic for one last hurrah. One last effort to get through the playoffs, and one last attempt to get a ring with his first team. But if Howard doesn't get the ring this year, the Magic won't get Howard.