Nets-Magic Preview

The New Jersey Nets acquired a front-line player at Thursday’s

trade deadline, though not the one most thought it would be.

Now they’ll get another up-close look at the one that got


After months of back-and-forth deliberation, Dwight Howard has

decided to stay with the Orlando Magic – at least through next

season – and his quest for a championship continues when Orlando

seeks its 10th straight win over visiting New Jersey on Friday


While Magic executives were weighing the team’s options after

Howard scored 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a 122-111 loss

at San Antonio on Wednesday, the face of the franchise decided he

was best suited to remain with the team that drafted him No. 1

overall out of high school in 2004.

Howard signed a waiver in the early morning hours Thursday,

taking away his right to opt out of his contract following this


It took longer than the Magic may have wanted, but Howard will

be under contract through the 2012-13 season.

“I’m glad this is finally over,” Howard said. “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.”

After watching Shaquille O’Neal sign with the Los Angeles Lakers

in 1996 without any compensation, Orlando wasn’t about to let

another star player leave without getting something in return.

“It was real,” general manager Otis Smith said of the

possibility of trading Howard. “We weren’t rolling the dice.”

There won’t be any more questions regarding Howard’s status –

much to the delight of coach Stan Van Gundy – and the perennial

All-Star just wants to focus on the task at hand.

“Now we can get back to playing basketball and having some peace

and trying to win a championship,” Howard said. “I feel like we

have a chance to win and I didn’t feel like either one of us (he or

the organization) should give that up.”

The last time the Magic (28-16) faced the Nets, Howard had 20

points and 17 rebounds in a 108-91 victory Feb. 22, though the New

Jersey fans continuously chanted his name due to Howard reportedly

listing the Nets as one of his preferred destinations in his

preseason trade demand.

Howard is likely to receive a loud ovation when he’s announced

in Orlando in this contest, and the Nets (15-29) now can only

wonder what might have been.

With Howard off the table, New Jersey traded Mehmet Okur’s

expiring contract, Shawne Williams and a protected first-round

draft pick to Portland for swingman Gerald Wallace on Thursday.

“We were involved in a lot of things, some things didn’t work

out, but the thing we did, did,” general manager Billy King said.

“I am always one who has the glass half full. We’re moving on. We

have a starting small forward who is a great fit for us, and that’s

all I can focus on.”

The trade may not be enough to keep star point guard Deron

Williams from opting out of his contract following the season, but

Wallace provides another threat at both ends of the court as the

Nets attempt to salvage what’s left of their season.

Wallace is averaging 13.3 points and 6.6 rebounds and also is

known as a stingy defender and hard worker. It’s unclear if he’ll

be in uniform for this matchup.

Williams missed his third straight game with a strained left

calf Wednesday, but Gerald Green – playing on his second 10-day

contract – scored 26 points off the bench in a 98-84 victory over


Kris Humphries had 16 points and a career-high 21 rebounds as

New Jersey ended a two-game skid. Brook Lopez also missed his sixth

straight game with a sprained right ankle.

“With Deron out and Brook out, there is a huge void in every

category when those two guys miss,” Humphries said. “It’s not just

me though. Gerald has come in on a 10-day and, look it up, I don’t

know if anybody has played that well ever. He is playing great. We

are all picking up the slack.”

New Jersey has lost seven straight meetings in Orlando,

including 94-78 on Dec. 29 when Howard scored 16 points and grabbed

24 rebounds.