HANG TIME ORLANDO BUREAU — OK, it’s over. Move along. Nothing more to see here.
Dwight Howard went from being the face of the trade deadline to being an innocent bystander. He signed away his Early Termination Option, meaning he’ll be with the Magic at least until the summer of 2013 (at a cost to Orlando of $19.4 million). It ended a weird week in which Howard changed his mind several times, before giving the Magic at least one more chance to convince him to sign long-term.
Howard initially was only open to staying with the Magic this season, saying the team had to “roll the dice” on him this summer. And that was an upgrade over his stance at the start of the season, when he gave the Magic a list of three teams — Mavericks, Nets and Lakers — to trade him to. In truth, Howard was always cool to the idea of signing with the Lakers, and was only interested in the Nets and hooking up with Deron Williams, also a free agent this summer.
In a sense, by only guaranteeing one more year in Orlando, the Dwama will start all over again this summer. Until Howard inks a long-term deal, there’s always a chance of him leaving the Magic. But by signing the ETO, Howard has left the door open for an extension. It’s the surest sign that he can see himself in Orlando for the immediate future, if not the rest of his career.
The question now is: What can the Magic do to keep Howard long-term? The Magic don’t have any contracts expiring this summer. In the summer of 2013, contracts belonging to Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick disappear, but that’s not enough for the Magic to attract a top-flight free agent. The big ball-and-chain is Hedu Turkoglu’s deal, which has two more years to run.
Also, will Otis Smith be the general manager making that call? And what about Stan Van Gundy as coach?
Howard, Smith and Magic CEO Alex Martins will appear at a press conference this afternoon in Orlando. At least we know where Howard will be at the start of next season.
Beyond that? Not even he knows.
Some soundbites from the news conference:
Martins: “I want to thank Dwight for his loyalty, and I want to thank Dwight for recognizing what we as an organization have known for a long, long time. The city of Orlando is a great city … this is a great place to compete for an NBA championship.”
“We took a risk eight years ago on a young high school player when all of the experts said that wasn’t the right decision to make. Over the course of the last eight years, Dwight has grown with this organization and this organization has grown with Dwight.”
“Loyalty is hard to find. And [Howard] is to be commended for the loyalty he showed today.”
Smith: “The risk eight years ago wasn’t that great of a risk … The objective is to win an NBA title. We think the best chance to do that is with Dwight as a part of the franchise.”
“Dwight has probably shown you over the past few months how in love he is with the city of Orlando … and how tough a decision it is …”
“I am proud of the growth he has shown in the past few months …”
“We’re ready to get back to playing basketball and give you guys something else to write about … at least for the next few months.”
And from Howard: “First, I’m glad this is finally over with.”
“It’s [been] very hard. Talking about a career-changing event. Going back and forth.”
“I’m too loyal. I’ve always believed that loyalty is before anything. Alex knows this. Otis knows this. The whole DeVos family.”
“This has been the best time for our team in the locker room. We’ve been able to grow and bind … I commend those guys in the locker room for just playing basketball and just sticking together. ‘Cause it’s been tough.”
“I just love the city too much, the people here, the organization. I want to give it a shot. We have a great opportunity to do something special. But it’s going to take everyone, from the top all the way to the bottom.”
“Everybody has to believe.”
“I’ve had to look bad in the process of it, but I’ll take all that. I want this city to know that I love them and I love this team and I want them to believe in us.
“Everybody has to believe.
“I’m loyal. That’s just who I am. That’s my nature. I told my teammates, ‘I’m all in.’
“I just kept going back and forth.
“Everybody goes through this, when you’re trying to get a new job or do something else. Only difference was, mine was getting put out there.
“I did what I had to do.”