Howard waives opt-out, agrees to stay in Orlando
By Ken Berger | NBA Insider
Dwight Howard signed an amendment to his contract Thursday waiving his right to opt out after the season, committing in writing to stay in Orlando for the 2012-13 season, a league source confirmed to CBSSports.com.
The Magic called a 1 p.m. ET news conference to make the announcement official, two hours before the NBA trade deadline.
Agent Dan Fegan has not signed the waiver, but a person briefed on the matter told CBSSports.com that there is no league requirement for an agent to sign an amended contract.
After 24 hours of flip-flip-flopping, Howard finally has committed to stay in Orlando next season, thus ceasing the Magic's efforts to trade him to avoid losing him as a free agent and receiving no assets in return.
The Nets, long Howard's preferred destination if he were traded or became a free agent, immediately shifted their focus from the All-Star center to surrounding Deron Williams with talent. The Nets were in advanced talks Thursday to acquire Gerald Wallace from Portland and also had "multiple scenarios" in play, league sources said. New Jersey, whose preferred plan was to pair Howard and Williams in Brooklyn next season, would send the expiring contract of injured center Mehmet Okur, Shawne Williams and a first-round pick to the Trail Blazers for Wallace, a league source said.
The Nets' options do not include trading Williams, who himself has an early-termination option and become a free agent July 1.
Howard's final decision -- at least for next season -- was the latest in a surreal series of events during a tumultuous, slapstick 24 hours that determined Howard's future with the team.
Howard told a top-ranking member of the Magic's management team Wednesday that he would sign a waiver of his early-termination option for the 2012-13 season, thus giving the team written assurance that he wouldn't bolt this summer as a free agent if the Magic kept him beyond Thursday's 3 p.m. ET deadline. Hours later, in a conference call involving his agent, Dan Fegan, and Magic brass -- including owner Rich DeVos -- Howard backtracked and told the team he wanted to be in Orlando but was not prepared to surrender his ability to opt out of his contract July 1.
The Magic then lost to the Spurs 122-111 in San Antonio, and after the team plane landed in Orlando, Howard once again told team officials he wanted to sign the ETO waiver, a person familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com Thursday. Given the time -- about 3 a.m. ET -- and in recognition of Howard's continued waffling, Magic officials decided that it wouldn't be classy or fair to accept Howard's signature at that hour. Instead, they invited him to meet with top brass at Amway Center Thursday morning to close the deal.
Fegan has not commented publicly beyond a statement provided to hand-picked media outlets Wednesday night and was not with Howard Thursday for his meeting with Magic officials.
In the course of his overnight flip-flop, Howard told RealGM.com: "My soul, everything I have is in Orlando. I just can't leave it behind."
Even before Wednesday's bizarre developments -- followed by Thursday's bizarre developments -- the Magic had come to the realization that they would likely have to trade Howard by Thursday's deadline. CBSSports.com reported Tuesday that the Magic were preparing to shift into trade mode and that the Nets -- Howard's preferred destination -- were emerging as the most realistic trade partner. Orlando executives were prepared to trade Howard Thursday had they not received his written commitment, sources said.
On the conference call Wednesday night with DeVos, Smith, CEO Alex Martins and other members of the DeVos family, Howard stated that his preference was to stay in Orlando beyond this season but that he was not prepared to give up his right to opt out, according to a person familiar with the conversation. Howard implored the executives and DeVos to "trust" that he will stay, the person said.
On Tuesday night, after leading the Magic to a 104-98 victory over the Heat in his final home game before the trade deadline, Howard infuriated some Magic officials when he put all the onus on them heading into Thursday. Howard told reporters that he's "going to stay" with the team for the rest of the season and that the Magic needed to "roll the dice" on whether he'd return beyond that.
Those dice finally were cast, by Howard himself, on Thursday.