Kevin Kolczynski/ReutersDwight Howard may have left the Magic’s home floor for the last time Tuesday night.
The long-running Dwight Howard-Orlando Magic soap opera took a few dramatic twists on Tuesday, with Howard stating he wanted to stay with the team until the season’s end. the Magic can make their own call and trade him by Thursday’s deadline.
Howard’s bombshell came after the Magic’s 104-98 overtime home win over the Miami Heat, revealing he has told the team’s front office of his intentions to ride the season out. he had asked to be traded before the season started, but now has had a change of heart. Howard made what could be his last home game, if he is traded, quite memorable with 24 points and 25 rebounds.
“I told those guys and I’ve been telling them for the past two or three weeks now that I’m going to stay and finish the season,” Howard said, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “I told them I feel we got a great opportunity to win, and I told them I want to be here. I want to bring a championship here, and I told them, ‘You’ve got to give me that chance.’ ”the reaction to Howard’s decision has been mixed, as well for Coach Stan Van Gundy volunteering to fall on his sword if it would help his star center stay with the Magic.
Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel questioned Howard’s sincerity and timing.
“…Howard wants his cake and eat it, too, with a side of ice cream,” Schmitz wrote. “he wants to be in the playoffs now with Orlando — the Nets are going on an early vacation — and become a free agent. If I’m the Magic, I have to deal him for compensation if he’s not willing to commit. …”
Sekou Smith, writes on NBA.com, that the Magic should still strive to trade Howard.
“…that leaves the Magic with one and only one move to make between now and Thursday’s trade deadline. TRADE HIM!It’s time for Dwight to go, Orlando,” Smith wrote. “As painful as it might sound to read it (or hear it if you say it out loud), you have to move him. There’s no way you put your franchise or your city through the trauma of Howard walking out of town in free agency, the way Shaquille O’Neal did years ago, leaving a gaping hole in the heart of a franchise and city until Howard came along. …”
Howard has played coy since last season, when he could have pushed for a contract extension with the Magic. he chose not to extend his deal, leading to the daily questions and intrigue over his thoughts leaning toward staying with the Magic or exploring free agency by opting out of the final year of his contract at the end of this season.
There has been speculation that the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets are enthusiastically chasing Howard, even with some team merchandise with Howard popping up (and later taken down) on NBA.com on Monday. It’s a gamble for the Magic: trade him now and get some value in return, or possibly lose Howard to free agency over the summer, to a team such as the Nets, and get nothing.
A trade has little risk for Howard, who will soon have the power to decide to stay or go. And in the meantime, he can hope the improving Magic make a run for the N.B.A. title in the upcoming playoffs. the Magic stand third in the Eastern Conference, behind the Heat and Bulls, with a 28-15 record.