The Orlando Magic scored a 104-98 victory against the Southeast Division-leading Miami Heat on Tuesday night, but with the NBA trade deadline looming Thursday at 3 PM, much of the attention after the game focused on Dwight Howard's future with the team. Howard asked for a trade to the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, or New Jersey Nets prior to the season, and given that he can use his Early Termination Option to become a free agent in July, there's a chance Orlando will lose the six-time All-Star center for nothing.
Howard doesn't want a deal before Thursday, however. "I told these guys what I’ve been telling them for the past two or three weeks now," Howard said. "I want to stay and finish the season."
But staying through the playoffs and staying for the next several seasons are two entirely different things, and Howard would not comment on his long-term future with the Magic. "That doesn't matter," he said. "This moment is what matters. Like I said, we have a great opportunity."
Howard's remarks following Tuesday's win lend credence to the theory that he doesn't want to join a Nets team that gutted its roster to trade for him; he'd prefer to finish the season with the Magic, take part in the postseason, and join New Jersey in the summer.
If the Magic grant Howard's wish and retain him beyond Thursday, then Tuesday's win won't be his last home game at Amway Center, and when Orlando hosts the Nets there on Friday, he'll still be in Magic pinstripes.