Howard waives opt-out clause, staying with Magic

By Kyle Hightower

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, March 15 2012 4:05 p.m. MDT

Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins, left, smiles as Dwight Howard answers questions during a news conference,Thursday, March 15, 2012, in Orlando, Fla. Howard signed papers Thursday agreeing to waive the early termination option in his contract, guaranteeing he will be with the Magic at the beginning of the 2012-13 season.

John Raoux, Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. — Magic center Dwight Howard has finally put an end to the back-and-forth NBA roller-coaster ride that he had taken Orlando on for the past four months.

At least temporarily.

Howard's 11th-hour decision before Thursday's trade deadline to waive the early termination option in his contract means he has a deal with the only franchise he's known at least through next season.

"I'm glad this is finally over," Howard said at a news conference to announce the new pact. "...It's not as easy as some people think. It's been very hard. We're talking a career-changing event. Most people don't see that.

"I'm very loyal and I've always put loyalty above anything."

But loyality only goes so far, the Magic wanted it in writing.

Had Howard not signed the papers, he would have been gone.

"It was real," Orlando general manager Otis Smith said of the possibility of dealing Howard before he signed the waiver. "We weren't rolling the dice."

But unless the Howard and the Magic can reach a long-term deal before next season begins, they're start right where they left off before Thursday. And it hasn't been pretty.

The Magic organization trudged through repeated closed door waffling on Howard's part about a desire to play with multiple teams and players, the city hosted an awkward All-Star weekend and pacifying a patient fan base.

Teammates have been frustrated and the situation has had an already intense Stan Van Gundy ready to blow a gasket having to answer — or refusing to answer — daily questions about Howard's status.

Even Howard's mother chimed in at one point during the drama, saying that she thought her son should remain in Orlando.

The saga continued until just hours before the trade deadline.

It was originally thought by both the Magic and league office that both Howard and agent Dan Fegan had to sign the forms. But turns out only Howard's signature was needed, opening the door for one more possible change of heart.

Though he had previously alluded to "getting bad advice" from people around him, Howard refused to touch the subject Thursday.

"It doesn't matter at this point," he said.

Howard said he didn't think he'd had a full night's sleep since making his original trade demand. He offered an apology to Magic fans for the back-and-forth ordeal, but not for taking his due diligence to make it.

"There's no decision about your life that you're gonna make in one day or one hour," he said.

But the four months it took Howard to make a decision impacted a lot of other people.

Howard first requested a trade during the preseason and at the time he expressed frustration with Magic management and what he felt was an unwillingness to include him in personnel decisions or to improve the roster around him. He went as far as to praise the relationship he felt All-Star Dirk Nowitzki has with Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban.

He maintained that stance until changing his mind this week and expressing a desire to remain in Orlando this season, though he initially refused to waive his opt-out provision.

Howard said he made his decision to waive the early termination clause in the hours after the Magic's loss to San Antonio Wednesday night and then notified the team via phone calls and text messages while on the team plane.

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