SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Dwight Howard thinks he'll represent the Orlando Magic at this year's All-Star Game in Orlando – and he doubts he'll be switching uniforms at all this season in spite of his desire to be traded.
Howard has not rescinded his trade request, but he told Yahoo! Sports he thinks there's a "100 percent" chance the Magic won't trade him before the Feb. 26 All-Star Game at the team's Amway Center. Team officials still hope to convince Howard to commit to staying with the franchise for the long term.
"I don’t think they are going to do anything right now because we’re winning," Howard said after a 104-97 victory over the Sacramento Kings improved the Magic's record to 6-3. "Even if this is the last season, let’s go out hard, regardless.”
When asked if he expects Orlando to trade him by the NBA's March 15 deadline, Howard said: “I don’t think so.”
The Magic gave Howard's representatives permission to explore a possible trade with the New Jersey Nets, Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks, but tabled discussions shortly before the start of the season. The Golden State Warriors would be willing to trade for Howard without the assurance he'd sign a long-term extension with them, sources told Yahoo! Sports.
Yet while the Magic still hope to convince Howard to stay with them, sources close to the All-Star center said he'd have to be convinced the team is a legitimate championship contender. The six teams the Magic have beaten this season have a combined record of 12-37.
Even after waiving of guard Gilbert Arenas’ big contract with the amnesty clause, the Magic don’t have the financial flexibility to make a big run at a major free agent this summer. The Magic also don’t have many tradeable assets that could help them improve their roster.
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If Howard were to try to depart via free agency, the Magic would have the advantage of being able to offer him a fifth year on a new contract worth about $28 million. Howard could even decide to postpone his free agency by a year and utilize the final-season option of his contract (worth $19.3 million) and then leave the Magic in the summer of 2013 if they haven't already traded him, sources close to him said.
"Even if he does a Chris Paul and opts in and stays another year, they’ll still end up losing him," one league source said. "The inevitable is coming."
While Magic general manager Otis Smith has looked at ways to improve the team, he doesn't appear intent on rushing into a deal simply to appease Howard.
"He’s a pro," Smith said of Howard. "He comes in every day and works like he’s supposed to. We haven’t had any issues at all."
When asked if Howard could finish the season with Orlando, Smith said, “I don’t know."
Howard appears to be patient for now. He has relied on advice from his family and friends, including New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, who leveraged the Denver Nuggets into trading him last season. Howard said the message he often receives is to do what’s best for him and not worry what everyone thinks.
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“Nothing has changed," Howard said. "There is no need to focus on everything else besides going out every night and playing hard for 48 minutes or however long I’m on the court. All the other stuff is up to the Magic. For me, I’m going to be Dwight every night. Have fun on the court, entertain the fans, block shots, run the floor, rebound, do whatever I got to do to win.
“That’s the only thing I can control at this point. There is no need for me to get involved with anything else. I’ve said all I can say about it, and I just want to play basketball.”
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