Crisis Averted: Dwight Howard To Stay With Magic For At Least One More Year
Magic C Dwight Howard, after “months of agonizing over his future, and with the NBA trade deadline just hours away,” decided to commit to the team “for at least one more season,” according to Josh Robbins of the ORLANDO SENTINEL. Howard “waived his contract's early termination option and ensured he will remain with the franchise for the 2012-13 season.” His decision “ended a high-stakes game of chicken against the Magic.” Team officials had determined they would “not allow Howard to become a free agent this summer.” Robbins writes Magic officials “pulled at him,” and Magic CEO Alex Martins “communicated with Howard almost every day.” Howard will earn $19.5M with the Magic next season. Martins said that the team “will try to sign Howard for the long-term” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 3/16). In Orlando, Mike Bianchi writes Howard’s decision was “such a powerful and wonderful thing.” Bianchi: “It wasn't business. It was personal.” Howard on Thursday said, "In my heart, I just felt like loyalty is better than anything. … I have to do what's going to make me happy. I've got everything I want right here in Orlando." Howard did something professional athletes “rarely do these days: He did what was best for the Magic and not for himself” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 3/16). An ORLANDO SENTINEL editorial states, “Good for Magic fans. Now they must hope the team does enough to convince him to stay for good” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 3/16).
DÉJÀ VU? ESPN THE MAGAZINE’S Chris Broussard wrote the move “ends what can only be characterized as a tense saga for the Magic.” By signing a waiver that keeps Howard with the team through next season, he “passes up the opportunity to sign a long-term contract this offseason.” He is “eligible to sign a two-year or three-year extension with the Magic, or he can collect his $19 million next season and then become a free agent, but Howard runs the risk of incurring an injury before signing another long-term deal” (ESPN.com, 3/15). In Orlando, George Diaz writes the waiver “essentially gives the Magic another year to put enough pieces in place to keep him around forever and ever.” Diaz: “March Sadness has been averted. But the Dwight Drama has not. This just means we get to double-down on all craziness for another year” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 3/16). The AP’s Kyle Hightower noted unless team Martins and GM Otis Smith can “add pieces around Howard between now and the summer of 2013, this entire ordeal is set to play out one more time.” Martins said that “part of the process was building a new relationship with Howard that he didn't have before.” Martins said that his “focus will be on making Orlando what Howard needs it to be in hopes of getting the center to sign a long-term deal” (AP, 3/15).
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN: In N.Y., Stefan Bondy notes the Nets and Magic “had the framework of a deal complete Wednesday night” for a Howard trade. It was the move Howard and his agent, Dan Fegan, had “pushed for since preseason, a way to earn more endorsement dollars in a bigger market.” Nets GM Billy King “constructed his roster and cap situation accordingly.” But Howard “waffled for a final time that night on the team plane, where he decided to go against the advice of Fegan and exercise his one-year option to play another season in Orlando -- thus forgoing free agency until 2013 and killing King’s plan to open the Barclays Center” with Howard and Nets G Deron Williams. Bondy: “Until further notice, these are still the Nets, Brooklyn or not, Mikhail Prokhorov or not” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/16). In Toronto, Frank Zicarelli writes the “biggest losers in the Howard melodrama would be the New Jersey Nets, a team that can’t buy a break, even with a deep-pocketed owner” (TORONTO SUN, 3/16).
MARTINS IS THE MAN: The ORLANDO SENTINEL’s Diaz writes Martins was “the perfect guy to re-recruit Dwight,” and he was the one who “got it done.” Martins convinced Howard to "roll the dice" with the Magic. Howard is “staying (at least for another year) because he is loyal to the Magic, but most importantly he is loyal to Martins.” Martins used “his personality -- very businesslike, but approachable and cordial -- to convince Howard to break free from the pack of NBA egomaniacs and their superstar cliques.” Martins said, "I don't think it's fair for me not to say that a lot of people were involved in this process. [Team Owners] the DeVos family were incredibly involved with conference calls, sometimes with as many as 20 members of the family” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 3/16).