Magic top Heat; Dwight: I wanna stay!

BY foxsports • March 14, 2012

ORLANDO — Dwight Howard has retracted his trade demand and asked for the chance to win a championship this season in Orlando — clearly putting the onus on the Magic to make the big decision.

But it's really not about changing his mind, as much as it's about changing the perspective. This way, he's not the bad guy anymore. Smart move on his part.

If the Magic trade him before the Thursday afternoon trade deadline – and that possibility has shrunk considerably — it's their decision and not his to leave. His decision will come this summer.

"I told those guy (team officials) , and I've been telling them the past two, three weeks now, I want to finish the season here. I want to be here and win a championship here," Howard said after the Magic beat the Miami Heat, 104-98 in overtime.

"They have to give me that chance."

Howard will become a free agent this summer, but he has not given the Magic any encouragement about re-signing, insisting he wants to go through the free-agent process. If he leaves as a free agent, more than likely for the Nets, the Magic would receive nothing in return.

The Magic will continue talking Wednesday with several teams about a possible trade. They have offered Howard to the Nets in exchange for injured center Brook Lopez, but only if the Nets also are willing to take the bloated contracts of Hedo Turkoglu and Chris Duhon, to clear salary cap space and help the Magic rebuild.

"When they didn't trade me at the beginning of the season (when he first made the trade demand), I told them I'd play hard every night and put them into position to win,'' Howard said.

"I don't want to see that slip away now. We've got to take the chance. They have to roll the dice. I think we're hitting our peak at the right time, and we need to see where it goes. We have a good chance to surprise people."

The Magic (28-15) in the past week have beaten the Heat, Pacers and Bulls, the top teams in the Eastern Conference. They have beaten the Heat, favorite to win the NBA title, two out of three times this season.

Howard, along with co-captain Jameer Nelson, dominated Tuesday's game. Howard had 24 points and 25 rebounds. Nelson had 25 points and four assists. One of the reasons Howard wants to play for the Nets is to play with a great point guard such as Deron Williams.

Nelson was that guy Tuesday.

Howard left on the team plane Tuesday night for San Antonio with his Magic teammates, and he expects to return the same way.

"I expect to be here (this season),'' he said. "We have a great opportunity to do something. We should take it. When we step on the court, we're together. And nothing is getting between us. When Jameer is attacking, we're tough to beat."

Magic owner  Rich DeVos, 86, met with Howard again Tuesday, bringing much of his family to the game, including the grandkids, who have asked him not to trade Howard.

According to sources within the organization, there has been some spirited debate over the idea of trading Howard before he can leave as a free agent. There is a faction within the organization that wants to trade him. DeVos, who has the biggest vote, wants to convince him to stay.

"I don't think there will be any surprises (before Thursday), but we'll just have to see," DeVos said.

The Howard debate has thrown an ominous cloud over the franchise, overshadowing the recent improvement of the team.

"For tonight, we're actually going to give a hoot about the game," said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, who declined to talk about the possibility of trading Howard. "The story is, we did a helluva job tonight."

There was the early-in-the-day report that the Magic ownership had given Howard the option of firing either Van Gundy and/or general manager Otis Smith if he agreed to sign an extension.

"I really don't give a damn about being fired," Van Gundy said before the game. "It doesn't concern me in the least. If they want to fire me to please someone, then fire me. That's fine. (Dwyane) Wade, (LeBron) James and (Chris) Bosh scare me more than any rumors of getting fired."

Later in the day, another internet site said that Howard already had decided he will play for the Nets next season, regardless what the Magic do, leaving them no choice but to trade him Thursday or face losing him this summer with no compensation.

"None of that matters. What matters is now, this moment matters," Howard said. "We've got a shot to do something."