Dwight Howard is staying in Orlando, for at least the short-term. Putting a temporary end to his trade-demand saga, the Orlando star signed a waiver agreeing to give up his right to opt-out of his contract for next year, according to an ESPN report.
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This comes on the heels of an interview with realgm.com, where Howard claimed to have received bad advice and apologized to Magic fans for the circus atmosphere surrounding his decision.
In what was being billed as an "exclusive interview" with sports website RealGM, Howard said he will formally sign paperwork to waive the early termination options in his contract that would have allowed him to become a free agent at the end of this season.
Howard said he would be commit Thursday morning, ahead of the 3:00pm ET trade deadline. "My soul, everything I have, is in Orlando. I just can’t leave it behind," he said.
He was apologetic about the confusion that had been caused and vowed to be better moving forward.
"I have gotten some bad advice," Howard said. "I apologize for this circus I have caused to the fans of our city. They didn’t deserve none of this."
Howard was warned by Magic bosses that they would seek a trade for him if he could not guarantee staying beyond this season. Yahoo Sports reported that process had hurriedly begun while Howard flip-flopped and would remain active until he signed the waiver form.
The New Jersey Nets — Howard’s apparent longtime preferred destination — were said to be putting together a package including Brook Lopez, first-round picks and other assets, amid the confusion.
The Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers also reportedly were interested in acquiring him.
It was widely believed at the start of the season that the 26-year-old Howard would opt out of the final year of his contract, which is valued at $19.5 million, and become a free agent this summer if the Magic did not sanction a trade.
But over the past few months, Magic officials have been lobbying Howard to stay with the team and sign a long-term deal. On Tuesday, Howard said he wanted to stay in Orlando for the rest of the season and try to win a championship, but he did not commit to the team for next season.
A number of reports early Wednesday indicated that Howard went further, informing his teammates that he intended to remain through the 2012-13 season.
But in a conference call before Wednesday night’s 122-111 defeat in San Antonio, Howard and his agent Dan Fegan reportedly told the Magic that he was not prepared to surrender his early termination option, even though his first choice was to stay in Orlando.
ESPN sources said he "didn’t fully understand the ramifications" of surrendering the option when he told teammates earlier in the day that he had decided to opt out.
Yet the interview with RealGM suggested he had come to terms with what was necessary to stay in Florida.
Magic officials wanted Howard to sign the waiver because it would have assured the team in writing that he would be playing for the team next season if he was not traded by Thursday’s deadline.