Due to his unwillingness to commit to them beyond the current season, the Orlando Magic are moving closer to trading six-time All-Star center Dwight Howard before Thursday's 3 PM Eastern NBA trade deadline, with the New Jersey Nets being the most interested party. Marc Stein of ESPN.com reports the Nets "have had the most serious discussions with the Magic this week" and the two teams continued to discuss a Howard trade Wednesday evening.
The Houston Rockets are also in the mix for Howard, according to Stein, and are willing to trade for him without assurances he'd stay beyond this season.
These reports cap off a wild day wherein it was learned Howard verbally committed to his teammates and Magic ownership to waiving the Early Termination Option in his contract--which option enables him to become a free agent in July 2012--only to change his mind and decide against waiving the ETO, presumably after discussing the issue with Dan Fegan, his agent.
Howard requested a trade to the Nets, Los Angeles Lakers, or Dallas Mavericks during training camp, but indicated Tuesday night he'd like to remain with the Magic for the rest of the season. He encouraged the team to "roll the dice" by keeping him beyond the deadline without assurances he'd stay. He expounded on that point Wednesday night following his team's 122-111 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. "They took a chance on me at 18," Howard said, "and what did I do? I gave them everything I had for eight years."