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As first reported by Christian Bruey of WFTV Channel 9 in Orlando, Dwight Howard has told his Orlando Magic teammates he will decline the Early Termination Option in his contract and forgo free agency in 2012. If he commits, in writing, to waiving his ETO, he would not be eligible to become a free agent until July 2013, and would play out the 2012/13 season--the last one on his contract--with the Magic.
As Sam Amick notes, however, the Magic have yet to receive a signed, written commitment from Howard and his representatives that he'll waive his ETO, which commitment they'll absolutely require before completely calling off efforts to trade him before Thursday's NBA trade deadline. Ken Berger says Howard and his agent, Dan Fegan, would lose all of their leverage if they submitted that paperwork.
If Howard indeed waives his ETO, he and the Magic would have an additional year together. The Magic would gain precious time to add talented complementary players around Howard, while he could wait to survey what possibilities the 2013 free-agent market might afford him.
In addition, Howard and the Magic would be able to put a stop to the constant speculation about his future, which has affected him and the team throughout the season. Orlando owns the league's fifth-best record despite its flawed roster and the ever-present distractions regarding Howard.
Adrian Wojnarowski reports Howard, who shares team captaincy duties with Jameer Nelson, called a meeting Wednesday in San Antonio wherein he reiterated his commitment to the Magic, saying he's "all in."