Following the Orlando Magic’s big victory over the Miami Heat last night, Dwight Howard — who absolutely dominated with 24 points and 25 boards — faced the usual line of questioning regarding his future (or lack thereof) with his current team, and he dropped something of a bombshell.
Howard told the assembled media that he’d like to finish out the season as a member of the Orlando Magic, but then a few breaths later, basically indicated that the team may be screwed as suspicions grow that Dwight intends to leave Orlando for the Nets during his free agency in the summer.
From the Orlando Sentinel:
“I’ve been telling those guys [in the Magic front office], and I’ve been telling them for the past two or three weeks now, that I want to stay and finish the season,” Howard said. “I told ’em I feel we’ve got a great opportunity to win and I told ’em that I want to be here and I want to bring a championship here. And I told ’em they’ve got to give me that chance.” It’s not that simple. If the Magic keep Howard beyond the deadline, he would have the chance to sign elsewhere in free agency — most likely with the Brooklyn-bound New Jersey Nets — and could leave the Magic with no compensation. Howard might be stringing the Magic along by not committing to staying beyond this postseason.
“They didn’t trade me at the beginning of the season, and I told them I was going to go out and play as hard as I can every night to put our team in a position to win,” Howard said. “And we’re third in the East. We’re playing great basketball. I told ’em I don’t want to see that slip away. So we’ve got to take a chance, and I think we have a great chance of surprising a lot of people and winning.” [...] Howard said he expects to play for the Magic when they host the New Jersey Nets on Friday. “I feel they have to roll their dice,” Howard said. “It might be tough, but I feel like we’ve got a great opportunity. But they’ve got to roll it.”
Some in the Orlando Magic’s front-office (a place that’s reportedly divided over whether or not to trade Howard) were said to be “disgusted” by Dwight’s comments last night, as nearly everyone now suspects that the big man only wants to avoid a trade so that the Brooklyn-bound Nets don’t gut their entire roster just to acquire him now.
Will the Orlando Magic indeed “roll the dice” and keep Howard, praying they can convince him to stick around this summer? Or will they avoid the wild gamble and try to salvage the situation by trading the game’s best center?
By Thursday afternoon, we’ll have our answer.